Following a “raft of litigation,” 3M has set a 2025 deadline to stop producing PFAS, the “forever chemicals” that have caused a stir in the dental community for their use in coated dental floss.
Known for their water-resistant and nonstick properties, perfluoralkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—PFAS—have in recent years been found in dangerous concentrations in drinking water, soils, and foods. According to the EPA:
- PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time.
- Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found worldwide in the blood of people and animals and at low levels in many food products and in the environment.
- Studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects.
- There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and they're found in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products. This makes it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks.
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According to Reuters, 3M's decision was prompted by mounting legal pressure over the damage caused by PFAS. Due to 3M’s “scale and position as one of the world’s largest producers of PFAS,” its decision to stop producing the chemicals is expected to make a palpable impact: “We feel this could represent a turning point in the transition towards a more sustainable chemical industry," Victoria Lidén, sustainability analyst with Storebrand Asset Management, told the news outlet.
PFAS have made headlines in dentistry due to their use in coated floss. In September 2022, testing done by EHN.org on 39 brands of floss found evidence of the chemicals in a third of the samples, with levels ranging from 11 ppm to 248,900 ppm. The results were part of joint testing on ordinary products for evidence of the chemical, with advocates urging “companies and trade associations like the American Dental Association [to] ‘stop approving of any dental product that contains any forever PFAS compound.’”
It is not immediately known how 3M's decision to stop producing PFAS in 2025 will affect specific products such as dental floss. In an email comment to DentistryIQ, the ADA said that “No restrictions on the use of dental floss have been issued by the US Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency that oversees clearance of dental products marketed to the public.”