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3M Knew Its Fluorochemicals Were Contaminating Human Blood But Failed to Do Anything

science-5314419_1280-e1718065686874-300x200Recently, the New Yorker ran a very important piece, reported by investigative journalist Sharon Lerner, in collaboration with ProPublica, with the headline “How 3M Discovered, Then Concealed the Dangers of Forever Chemicals.” 3M Corporation makes products like building materials and adhesives. The article tells the story of Kris Hansen, a chemist at 3M, who was asked by her boss, Jim Johnson, to test human blood to see if it had been contaminated with fluorochemicals, manmade compounds that are found in a number of 3M products including Scotchgard and firefighting foam. Unbeknownst to Hansen, Johnson had made several discoveries about the contaminants years before in some cases, he’d been directed to do the work by 3M’s lawyers.

Call Chicago-Based Attorneys of Moll Law Group If Forever Chemicals Harmed You

At that time, Johnson told Hansen that PFOS, one of these fluorochemicals, often entered the bloodstream of workers in the 3M factory but didn’t harm them. However, Johnson had also been told that an outside lab kept finding contaminants in blood samples from the American Red Cross, taken from the general population who shouldn’t have had those contaminants present.

Hansen’s job then was to figure out whether the lab had erred in its findings. In testing, she, too, found that PFOS was in the sample, which was from someone who hadn’t worked for the company; the other samples she and her team tested were also contaminated. She told her boss, but subsequently found that her warnings about the contamination were left out of official meeting notes.

Hansen was unaware that animal testing had also discovered fluorochemicals in animal lab subjects—the company had been told that PFOS had made animals sick with liver abnormalities. In a confidential document, toxicologist provided warnings to 3M of the grave harm these fluorochemicals could cause in humans and urged a study of whether the fluorochemicals had caused reproductive issues or cancer. Ignoring his warnings, 3M increased its fluorochemical production.

Hansen received greater scrutiny in the workplace after reporting her findings. People higher up in the company suggested her equipment was flawed and her relationships with colleagues fell apart. She continued to find evidence of the harm that PFOS could cause both to humans and animals—many of her test subjects were contaminated. She also found that wastewater from the 3M factory was contaminated with additional fluorochemicals.

A year after Hansen met with the CEO of 3M, the company announced publicly it would discontinue making PFOS and told the press that to its surprise, it had found PFOS in blood banks. Hansen left the workplace to raise children and though she checked in on what was happening with forever chemicals research and production, she stopped involving herself in 3M’s actions, but meanwhile, other forever chemicals, known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) were manufactured.

3M made at least one hundred million pounds of PFOS and other chemicals that break down into PFOS between 1951 and 2000 —even after studies showed the risks of these fluorochemicals. In the last few years, 3M has been sued by thousands of consumers who were harmed by forever chemicals; these lawsuits were consolidated in federal court in Florida in 2019. PFOS is linked to diabetes and obesity, as well as thyroid and testicular cancer, among other cancers—and according to the New Yorker piece, many, many Americans have at least a single fluorochemical in their body through their drinking water.

If your or a loved one suffered medical injuries due to PFOS or PFAS, you should consult the Chicago-based toxic tort lawyers of Moll Law Group. It may be appropriate to bring a toxic tort lawsuit against 3M for harm you’ve suffered. We may be able to recover damages under theories of negligence, strict liability, and various consumer protection statutes. When a company knows of the harms caused to consumers by a product and still produces and markets the product, it may be liable for punitive damages. Our firm represents injured people around the country. Please complete our online form or call us at 312.462.1700.


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