|May 17, 2000
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Minnesota Mining and
Manufacturing Co. (3M) said on Tuesday it would stop
making many of its well-known Scotchgard products after
tests revealed the chemical compounds involved linger in
the environment and in the human body for years.
Medical monitoring of employees at plants that make
the chemicals have shown the compounds are present in
very low levels in tissue samples, but all existing
scientific knowledge shows no adverse health or
environmental effects, 3M said.
3M and other manufacturers have known for some time
that the chemicals are long-lived, a spokesman said. But
sophisticated new testing techniques, some developed in
the last few years, found they can be detected broadly
in people and in wildlife, water and other areas.
The 3M product lines to be phased out involve
perfluorooctanyl chemistry and include Scotchgard fabric
protector commercially applied to carpets and the
Scotchgard spray available in grocery and hardware
The phase-out also involves coating used for oil and
grease resistance on paper packaging, fire-fighting
foams and specialty components for other products. The
affected product lines account for about $300 million of
sales annually, or about 2 percent of total 3M sales.
``Our decision anticipates increasing attention to
the appropriate use and management of persistent
materials,'' Charles Reich, executive vice president of
3M's specialty material markets, said in a statement.
``While this chemistry has been used effectively for
more than 40 years and our products are safe, our
decision to phase out production is based on our
principles of responsible environmental management.''
3M will take a $200 million charge against earnings
sometime this year to cover the phase-out. The company
said it still expects to meet the consensus earnings
estimate of $4.69 per share for 2000 and expects to be
slightly above forecasts of $5.21 per share for 2001.
Jack Kelly, an industry analyst at Goldman Sachs,
said he viewed the decision to phase out the chemicals
as a natural evolution of the company's constant review
of its product line and removal of less profitable
``Clearly, 3M is becoming more profit-conscious,'' he
said, and the Scotchgard business was less profitable
Linda Greer, senior scientist at the nonprofit
environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council in
Washington, D.C., said she applauded 3M for proactively
taking the product off the market. ``That (Scotchgard)
really is a household name,'' she said. ``It takes guts
to do that.''
Greer said the fact that Scotchgard is a heavily
fluorinated chemical puts it into a class of chemicals
that are notorious for persistence, including CFCs
(chlorinated fluorocarbons) and PCBs (polychlorinated
biphenyls). Both of those have been taken off the market
because of government intervention. CFCs, for example,
were found to be destroying the ozone layer.
``Other halogenated chemicals of this class cause a
wide range of health problems in animals and in
people,'' Greer said. ``What you worry about is
long-term buildup in tissues or organs to the point
where it could cause some problems.''
Dr. Bill Coyne, senior vice president of research and
development at 3M, said in an interview that the main
reason for taking the products off the market is
environmental, not health-related. ``It's in a lot of
different locations,'' he said. ``We want to focus our
research efforts and our invention efforts on materials
and products that are not persistent in the
3M, a diversified manufacturer, makes Post-It notes,
Scotch Tape and many other consumer and industrial
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