3M's announcement in 2000 that it was phasing out its popular Scotchgard product led to a major investigation by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. The anti-stain spray contained chemicals toxic to lab animals. The chemicals had also turned up in the blood of 3M workers, though the company said its employees were not harmed.
On the state level, an investigation by Minnesota Public Radio and American Radio Works found that even after 3M said it would no longer make the chemicals, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency let two years pass before it began any inquiries. 3M developed the chemicals in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. The MPCA moved into action only after 3M approached it, to say the drinking water at its Cottage Grove chemical plant was contaminated.
Over the next two years, the MPCA's top researcher on new chemicals was repeatedly denied the chance to investigate how far the toxins may have spread.
The story raises questions about who is responsible for the safety of the public and the environment. And about whether state agencies are doing enough to protect citizens from toxic chemicals.