Analysts think that 3M Co.'s decision to stop making "forever chemicals" is a move to limit its potential liability for its products in legal battles that are expected to last for years.
3M denies that decades-old chemicals and products contaminated drinking water and caused health problems. Legal and industry analysts expect 3M to clean up soil and water allegedly contaminated by forever chemicals, which have been used in nonstick cookware, carpeting, and firefighting foam for decades.
The Minnesota-based company is also a defendant in liability lawsuits for military earplugs. Approximately 230,000 veterans filed claims in a single federal court case, a record number of claims in a single federal court case, alleging that the earplugs failed to protect them from service-related hearing loss.
3M denies them. The company is expected to argue that the fire-suppression foam was made to U.S. military specifications, protecting 3M as a government contractor. 3M claims the earplugs are safe and effective when soldiers are properly trained.
According to some analysts, the company's liability costs will be in the tens of billions of dollars. Lawyers and business leaders at 3M say that the final costs will be much less, and that the earplug cases alone could be worth $1 billion.