Washington, DC — Minnesota soil, air, and groundwater show significant contamination from 3M chemicals used to make Scotchgard and other products, according to a new report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG). New data show perfluorochemicals (PFC’s) widely distributed in a dozen sites around 3M’s St. Paul facility, including two chemicals that the company phased out three years ago. The research, repeatedly impeded by state pollution control chief and former 3M executive, Sheryl Corrigan, shows some of the highest concentrations of PFC’s ever recorded anywhere in the world.
The report by Dr. Fardin Oliaei, who resigned earlier this month as the coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency program on emerging contaminants, was presented today before the Minnesota Senate Committee on Environment & Natural Resources. Dr. Oliaei resigned after the MPCA made clear she would not be able to complete her studies into the scope of pollution from perfluorochemical compounds manufactured by 3M for products such as Scotchgard, Teflon, Stainmaster and Gore-Tex.
Dr. Oliaei’s report finds significant soil and groundwater contamination in several sites where PFCs were dumped, as well as in nearby lakes, water treatment plants and the Mississippi River where 3M discharged as much as 50,000 pounds of the chemical per year. In addition, PFCs are evident in the livers, blood and flesh of fish in state waters, some of which register the highest PFC levels ever recorded.
The data also show that although 3M ceased manufacturing the perfluorochemicals PFOA and PFOS, those two highly persistent toxins remain in wide circulation. Samples from 3M’s wastewater treatment plant show that even after the water is processed for release back into the environment, it still contains measurable levels of PFOS, the likely carcinogen PFOA, and related chemicals.
“These findings highlight the fact that without careful monitoring and strict oversight to accompany voluntary phase outs, these toxic chemicals will continue to pollute people, their food, and their environment,” said Dr. Timothy Kropp, a toxicologist with Environmental Working Group in Washington. “This report confirms the need for states and federal agencies to rigorously oversee the PFOA phase-out deal struck last month between the EPA and DuPont, 3M, and other companies.”
PFCs are a highly toxic and persistent class of chemicals found in the blood of over 95 percent of Americans. They have been linked to developmental defects, high cholesterol, immune disorders. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was recently labeled a “likely carcinogen” by an EPA scientific advisory board. PFCs bio-accumulate to varying degrees in living tissue and do not break down in the environment, so their effects can intensify up the food chain, as tainted fish are consumed by birds and mammals, including humans.
“At a minimum, these findings make a compelling case for further investigations but that is apparently the last thing the inaptly named Minnesota Pollution Control Agency wants,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is representing Dr. Oliaei. “3M has opened a chemical Pandora’s Box in its home state and now finds that it cannot recapture the demons it has unleashed.”
While MPCA Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan, a former 3M executive has supposedly recused herself from further decisions involving PFC’s, legislative testimony indicates that her agency is foot-dragging on undertaking further tests that will shed light on the public health impacts of PFC contamination.
Now that Dr. Oliaei has left state service, she is seeking to continue her investigations into PFCs and other emerging contaminants from the private sector.