February 27, 2006
Press Release: Environmental Working Group
3M Chemical Contamination Widespread In Minnesota
New Report Finds Worst PFC Pollution in Nation around Twin Cities
WASHINGTON - February 27 - 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.