WOLVERINE WORLDWIDE ENVIRONMENTAL FAQs
- PFOA and PFOS, two chemicals used in 3M’s Scotchgard™ for decades, were added to a wide variety of consumer products, firefighting foams and other consumer and industrial products. The chemicals have been identified at numerous sites in Michigan, across the country, and beyond. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense has identified hundreds of active and former military installations nationwide with known or suspected releases of PFOA or PFOS. Dozens of other non-military industrial sites have been identified as well. In Michigan, PFOA and PFOS have been identified in and around at least six different current and former military installations, as well as other commercial and industrial sites where products using PFOA and PFOS were used.
- In 2017, PFOA and PFOS were identified in groundwater near Wolverine Worldwide’s former tannery and disposal sites in and around Rockford, Michigan, at levels above the EPA’s conservative lifetime health advisory level for drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). As of March 20, 2018, of the over 1,500 homes with private wells tested in the study areas, 106 are above 70 ppt. All of these homes have been provided options for safe drinking water by Wolverine Worldwide.
- Wolverine Worldwide applied 3M’s Scotchgard™ containing PFOA and PFOS to some leather manufactured at the tannery until 2002, when 3M changed its formula for Scotchgard™. 3M manufactured, marketed and sold Scotchgard™ to thousands of businesses and millions of consumers for decades. When Wolverine Worldwide disposed of the tannery byproducts some of those byproducts may have contained PFOA and/or PFOS.
- 3M approached Wolverine Worldwide in 1999 regarding the reformulation of its Scotchgard™ product, which would no longer contain PFOS. At that time, in a letter requested by the Company, 3M reconfirmed that the previous formula had “no adverse health effect” on workers who had been exposed to PFOS and, in addition, “currently available evidence does not suggest any human health effect” associated with PFOS levels found in non-workers.
- 3M continues to maintain that position, including a statement on its website in 2018 that read: “We believe that PFOS and PFOA do not present health risks at levels that are typically found in the environment or in human blood” and that even “production workers who were exposed to these chemicals at levels significantly higher than those in the general population – often over an extended period of time . . . show no adverse health effects.”
- Both are part of a larger group of man-made chemicals known as per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS).
- These substances have been used for decades and resist heat, water, oil, grease and stains.
- These compounds have been used for many decades in commercial products like firefighting foams and metal plating, and in common consumer items like fast food wrappers, candy wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, dental floss, cosmetics, paint, sealants, carpets, Gore-Tex®, Teflon®, and other consumer applications including 3M’s Scotchgard™.
What is 3M Scotchgard™, does it contain PFOA/PFOS and how did Wolverine Worldwide use this solution?
- Scotchgard™ has been used by millions of consumers and thousands of businesses for over 50 years.
- Scotchgard™ has been produced by 3M since 1956 and is a water and stain repellant treatment used to protect fabrics, furniture and carpets.
- Consumers have used Scotchgard™ as a spray-on fabric and carpet protector for decades.
- Wolverine Worldwide used Scotchgard™ to provide water and stain repellant properties in some of its leathers beginning around the late 1950s and switched to a new formula introduced by Scotchgard™ around 2002.
- Scotchgard™ contained PFOA/PFOS until 3M changed the formula around 2002.
- PFAS are stable and ubiquitous in the environment.
- People are exposed to PFAS in many different ways, including through common household materials, food packaging, carpet, apparel, textiles and paper.
- While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in communities where PFOA/PFOS are found in groundwater used as drinking water.
- Greater than 99% of the Unites States population has either PFOA or PFOS in their blood serum. 95% of the United States adult population has background levels of up to 21,700 ppt for PFOS and 5,700 ppt for PFOA. (https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/pfas-blood-testing.html).
- Essentially, PFOA/PFOS are virtually everywhere and in virtually everyone to some degree.
- PFOA/PFOS have even been found in low population areas such as wildlife in the arctic and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula rivers.
- Each and every PFAS is a unique compound. PFOA and PFOS were the original chemicals developed in this family. Industries and companies in the United States have phased out the manufacture and use of PFOA and PFOS. They also phased out the use of perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), another long chain PFAS compound.
- Smaller PFAS chemicals, such as perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) are still manufactured today. According to scientists, PFBS and PFBA are eliminated from our bodies within days and do not present any human health concerns at low levels.
- The Michigan criteria and federal advisories relate only to drinking water and only to PFOA and PFOS. (http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135–457220–,00.html) (https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/drinking-water-health-advisories-pfoa-and-pfos)
- Drinking water at a level above the Michigan criteria and federal advisories does not necessarily mean that adverse health effects are expected.
- Heath-protective screening levels, such as the Michigan criteria and federal advisories, do not represent bright lines between safe doses and those where health effects would be expected. Rather, such conservative levels are set by regulatory agencies using assumptions (e.g. a full lifetime of exposure) and methods (e.g. safety factors) designed to result in health-protective screening levels that are precautionary in nature.
- The “safety buffer” built into the federal advisory levels assumes exposure for an entire lifetime, and that a pregnant or nursing woman could drink over 4 liters of water per day at 70 ppt PFOA/PFOS with no effect on developing babies and infants.
- Neither Michigan nor the EPA has issued any health advisories for using water containing PFOA/PFOS for bathing, cleaning, washing dishes and laundry.
- Due to their persistent nature in the environment and human body, over 2,000 studies have been conducted regarding potential health impacts of PFOA and PFOS.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has described the science regarding potential human health effects of PFOA and PFOS as “inconclusive”. This means that results across studies are inconsistent and there is not a scientific consensus on how to best use the data to inform human health risks.
- The CDC, which does not recommend individual blood tests, notes that “health effects can be caused by many different factors and there is no way to know if PFAS exposure has caused health problems or made them worse.”
- Because there has been no convergence of the science, the CDC also acknowledges that “[c]onfirmatory research is needed” regarding the potential health effects of PFOA and PFOS.
- According to the Center for Disease Control, PFAS are a “possible health concern” because:
“According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are considered emerging contaminants. An ‘emerging contaminant’ is a chemical or material that is characterized by a perceived, potential, or real threat to human health or the environment or by a lack of published health standards.
PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment and resistant to typical environmental degradation processes. The pathway for dispersion of these chemicals appears to be long-range atmospheric and oceanic currents transport. Several PFAS and their potential precursors are ubiquitous in a variety of environments. Some long-chain PFAS bioaccumulate in animals and can enter the human food chain.
PFOS and PFOA are two of the most studied PFAS. Exposure to PFOA and PFOS is widespread and global. PFOS and PFOA also persist in the human body and are eliminated slowly. Both PFOS and PFOA can be found in blood, and at much lower levels in urine, breast milk and in umbilical cord blood.
PFOS and PFOA may pose potential adverse effects for human health given their potential toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation potential. The likelihood of adverse effects depends on several factors such as amount and concentration of PFAS ingested as well as the time span of exposure.”
- Wolverine Worldwide initially began groundwater testing for PFOA and PFOS in April 2017 – about one month after MDEQ first asked the company to investigate.
- Wolverine Worldwide has been part of this community for almost 140 years. We expect to be here for another 140 years. This community is our home.
- The health and well-being of our neighbors is our top priority and we’re working on this issue quickly and responsibly.
- Wolverine Worldwide has been working with the EPA, MDEQ, and other state and local authorities to test area groundwater for the possible presence of PFOA and/or PFOS, including at nearby residential wells and sites where tannery byproducts may have been disposed. As part of these efforts, Wolverine Worldwide has also installed over 70 monitoring wells.
- Out of an abundance of caution and to be safer than the science, Wolverine Worldwide has paid to provide water to thousands of residents in over 1,500 homes while analysis of groundwater testing was conducted. Wolverine Worldwide also has paid for more than 1,500 groundwater tests, installation of over 500 whole house water filters and over 100 point-of-use filters, and installation and testing of over 70 monitoring wells. Any home within the study areas using a drinking water well that has any detection of PFOA or PFOS has been given clean drinking water.
WATER FILTRATION FAQs
- Wolverine has offered water filtration solutions to hundreds of homes in the MDEQ-defined study areas, including paying for the installation of over 150 point-of-use (POU) filters and over 500 whole house filtration systems.
- The vast majority of these filters are in homes with no detections of PFOA/PFOS or with levels far below the conservative 70 parts per trillion (ppt) level set by the EPA and the State for PFOA/PFOS.
- Wolverine has offered whole house filters to all homes in the MDEQ-defined study areas with detections of PFOA/PFOS over 70 ppt.
- Homeowners that are eligible for a POU or whole house filter system are being contacted by Wolverine and/or our consultant, Rose & Westra/GZA, to arrange for the installation.
- For more information about your eligibility for a POU or whole house filter system, please visit WeAreWolverine.com or contact Wolverine Worldwide at (616) 866-5627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wolverine selected the Aquasana AQ-5300+ POU filter, which is certified by NSF International to remove PFOA and PFOS.
- The POU filters install under the kitchen sink and may also be connected to the water supply line of a kitchen refrigerator.
- The POU filters are simple to operate, and Wolverine has successfully installed over 150 of them in area homes.
- The State has offered similar POU filters at other locations across the State.
- More information about the Aquasana AQ-5300+ filter can be found here and here.
- Wolverine selected the Culligan/Calgon filtration system, which relies on dual canister granular activated carbon (GAC) absorption.
- This system has been demonstrated to effectively reduce PFAS, and ensures that these compounds are not returned to the environment.
- The Culligan/Calgon filtration system has been used to treat water for PFAS in over 1,500 homes around the country.
- A water meter is included in the outlet of the system to record water usage and facilitate maintenance.
- More information about the Culligan/Calgon whole house water filter can be found here.
- Maintenance of the whole house and point-of-use (POU) filters will be done at Wolverine’s expense while additional data is collected.
- Wolverine will provide replacement cartridges for the POU filters every six months, which is Aquasana’s recommended replacement schedule. Wolverine or its consultant, Rose & Westra/GZA, will notify homeowners when replacement cartridges are going to be delivered. In addition, the Aquasana AQ-5300+ alerts you when it’s time to change your filters, so please contact Rose & Westra/GZA at (616) 258-7234 if you are due to replace your filter before the regularly-scheduled six-month replacement.
- The whole house filters include at least two granular activated carbon canisters and two sediment filters. The frequency for carbon canister replacement will be determined based on post-installation testing results, and Culligan will remove and dispose of these canisters when they are replaced. The sediment filters will be changed by Culligan every four months, and homeowners can place the used filters in their garbage. Homeowners will be notified by Culligan when either the carbon canisters or sediment filters need to be replaced.
- More information on Wolverine’s whole house filter operation and maintenance program can be found here.
- Our monitoring results demonstrate that the whole house filters have been very effective and have reduced all affected homes to well below the Michigan criteria and federal advisory of 70 ppt for PFOA/PFOS.
- Homes are retested on a set schedule based on each home’s prior PFOA/PFOS test results. Monitoring schedules range from weekly monitoring for homes with the highest concentrations to annual monitoring for homes with PFOA/PFOS concentrations at or lower than 70 ppt.
- More information on the effectiveness of Wolverine’s whole house water filtration systems can be found here and here.