Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Manufacturing company 3M will pay $850 million to settle a case lawsuit filed by the state of Minnesota that accused the company of polluting local waterways for decades with flourochemicals, best known for their use in products such as Scotchguard.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said the settlement will be used to fund research to improve drinking water quality in the east metro area of the Twin Cities. The settlement was reached on the same day jury selection was scheduled to begin for a trial.
According to the lawsuit, 3M knew of the dangers posed by flourochemicals, known as PFCs, such as increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer; growth and learning impairments in children; decreased fertility in women; liver damage; and thyroid disease. But the company "engaged in lies and deception" to hide those risks.
"In 1977, 3M instructed its employees not to disclose that it was the source of the fluorine contamination in human plasma ... 3M decided not to tell individuals, customers, or regulatory bodies about the presence of its chemicals in human blood except 'upon request' ... 3M did not inform the U.S. Environmental Agency that its chemicals were in human blood for more than 20 years," the lawsuit states.
The state's lawsuit also accuses 3M of paying a medical journal editor for favorable articles, saying it "went to great lengths to ensure that scientific papers were not published with information 'contrary to 3M's business interests.'"
In addition, the lawsuit accused 3M of dumping millions of pounds of PFC waste into the ground and water of the east metro area of the Twin Cities between 1950 and the early 2000s.
"For three decades -- from the 1950s to the 1970s -- 3M simply dug trenches in the east metro and dumped the chemicals," the lawsuit said.
In a statement regarding the settlement, 3M denied PFCs posed a public health issue.
"Sustainability is embedded firmly at the core of our business," said John Banovetz, senior vice president, 3M Research & Development and chief technology officer. "This settlement reflects our commitment to acting with integrity and conducting business in a sustainable way that is in the best interest of all who live and work in Minnesota."