Businesses that stop manufacturing PFAs will help to protect the general public from fertility issues, immune system damage, and cancer. PFAs, which are also known as ‘forever chemicals’, have been a controversial issue for years and have even been the subject of lawsuits. So, it’s unsurprising that manufacturing giant 3M has announced that they will stop manufacturing PFAS by the end of 2025.
PFAs are manmade chemicals. They are manufactured using one of two processes: electrochemical fluorination (ECF) or telomerization. One of the biggest concerns of the PFA manufacturing process is that PFAs are released into the environment without being treated. This contaminates soil, surface water, lakes, and similar, and increases the chance of people consuming them. Research shows that up to 99% of the general population have PFAs in their bodies.
How bad are forever chemicals?
The 1940s is when PFAs became common. Since then they’ve been used in the production of various everyday items, including non-stick cookware, packaging, toiletries, clothing, and cell phones. Most concerning is that once PFAs are in the environment, they can take thousands of years to break down. Human health is also at risk as studies have linked PFAs to developmental delays, obesity, high cholesterol, and liver damage.
A new way of manufacturing
3M’s PFA ban will result in a loss of between $1.3 billion and $2.3 billion to the company. But the organization isn’t worried and says “This action is another example of how we are positioning 3M for continued sustainable growth by optimizing our portfolio, innovating for our customers, and delivering long-term value for our shareholders.” 3M currently manufactures more than 60,000 products. A product range like this requires a factory production line that is efficient. This often involves turnkey solutions being used to sort, store, transport, and package the product to simplify the manufacturing of items.
The press release released by 3M stated that the manufacturer has reduced its use of PFAs over the past 3 years. It’s not known what methods they’ve been using but there are several different alternatives available. Fluoropolymers are one option that is considered to be a ‘low hazard’. They’re manufactured using carbon and fluorine. The result is a highly durable product that can be used in aerospace, the automotive industry, electricals, and more. Polylactic Acid (PLA) is another safe option that is useful for manufacturers. PLA is a vegetable-based plastic, typically made from sugarcane or corn starch. It was originally made with the intention of being utilized in the 3D printing industry. But it is now being used for food packaging, cosmetics packaging, to make textiles, and in the healthcare sector.
PFAs may have been manufactured for decades, but their safety has been up for much debate in recent years. Now that 3M has pledged to stop using PFAs within the next 3 years, there’s hope that other manufacturers will follow their lead and help to protect the nation and the environment.