Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) Company History
Currently headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) was founded over a century ago in 1902 by five businessmen with diverse occupations: Henry S. Bryan (railroad executive), Hermon W. Cable (meat market proprietor), John Dwan (attorney), William A. McGonagle (railroad executive), and Dr. J. Danley Budd (general physician and surgeon).
The founders originally financed the company to mine mineral for grinding wheel abrasives in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. They quickly moved Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing from its original site to Duluth, Minnesota in 1905, however, when the mineral proved to be of poor quality and little value, nearly resulting in the failure of the business. In Duluth, the five men focused their efforts on making sandpaper with abrasive materials purchased from another source. The next few years would prove to be a struggle as the company attempted to master quality production and supply. As new investors were attracted to 3M, the company moved to St. Paul in 1910. By 1916, 3M began to see success and was able to pay out its first dividend. The following year, 1917, 3M sales reached $1 million.
As the company progressed through the 20th century, it continued to witness success from its innovative products from decade to decade:
1920s - Invention of the world's first waterproof sandpaper and masking tape
1930s - Samples of cellophane were coated with 3M adhesive to create Scotch® Cellophane Tape
1940s - Scotchlite™ Reflective Sheeting for highway markings was created along with magnetic sound recording tape, filament adhesive tape, and the start of 3M's involvement in the graphic arts with offset printing plates
1950s - 3M introduced the Thermo-Fax™ copying process, Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector, videotape, Scotch-Brite® Cleaning Pads, and several new electro-mechanical products
1960s - 3M introduced dry-silver microfilm, photographic products, carbonless papers, overhead projection systems, and a rapidly growing health care business of medical and dental products
1970s - New products were produced that held automotive parts in place, fastened diapers, provided backup security for computers, gave dentists new filling materials, helped keep buildings clean, helped prevent theft of library books, and made insulated clothing less bulky and more comfortable
1980s - Post-it® Notes were invented by a 3M scientist by using an adhesive on paper that didn't stick permanently
1990s - New innovations were developed including immune response modifier pharmaceuticals; brightness enhancement films for electronic displays; and flexible circuits used in inkjet printers, cell phones and other electronic devices
As 3M moved into the 21st century, it continued to grow its business with sales exceeding $20 billion for the first time. New innovations included Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, Scotch® Transparent Duct Tape, optical films for LCD televisions, and a new family of Scotch-Brite® cleaning products.
Today, with over 75,000 employees globally and operations in more than 65 countries, 3M is organized into six business segments—consumer and office, display and graphics, electro and communications, health care, industrial and transportation, and safety, security, and protection services—with 45 technology platforms, including adhesives, abrasives, light management, microreplication, nonwoven materials, nanotechnology, and surface modification.
With a proven track record of over a century of innovation, 3M—“the innovation company that never stops inventing”—credits its success to perseverance, ingenuity, and creativity. As 3M continues to evolve, the company continues to be guided by the principles set in place by William L. McKnight, who served as 3M president followed by chairman of the board from 1949-1966. McKnight’s management philosophy was based on the delegation of responsibility—empowering employees and respecting their contributions. Thus, it is held in high regard that it is the work of 3M’s employees that move the company forward.
Products Manufactured by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) that Contained Asbestos
Exposure to asbestos poses a risk for the development of asbestos cancer, otherwise known as mesothelioma. Prior to its ban by the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission in 1977, asbestos was a common component in a wide variety of products used across a broad range of industrial settings.
Prior to the 1980s, caulking compounds were believed to have contained up to 25% asbestos fiber. Asbestos was incorporated into these products for the benefit of giving the material more strength and durability. Caulking compounds were commonly used in plumbing applications, building construction, shipbuilding, and boilermaking.
Asbestos, recognized for its strength and ability to endure great increases in temperature, was also commonly found in adhesives—materials used to form strong bonds with various surfaces.
Among the products produced by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) that may have contained asbestos are:
- 3M Caulk (1935-1986)
- 3M Sticky Tar Caulking (1935-1940)
- 3M Adhesive (1935-1986)
- 3M Wet Adhesives (1935-1986)
The majority of the asbestos-related lawsuits and claims against 3M involve the company’s mask and respirator products (namely the 8500 dust mask and the 8710 disposable respirator). While neither of these products contained asbestos, individuals allege that these products did not offer adequate protection from occupational dusts, including asbestos. 3M claims that the 8500 dust mask was designed to keep nontoxic dusts away from the wearer’s nose and mouth and that it never was marketed as suitable for protection from asbestos. In 1978 3M included a warning on the box of 8500 masks cautioning that it was not intend to be used around asbestos. This same warning was later placed on the mask itself.
With regard to the 8710 disposable respirator, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved this device for use in areas of known asbestos exposure that did not exceed ten times the permissible exposure limit (PEL). When OSHA reduced the PEL for asbestos in 1986, 3M voluntarily removed the 8710 from the market as an approved respirator for use with asbestos.
Among the products produced by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) that did not contain asbestos, but are named in asbestos-related lawsuits for allegedly failing to protect individuals from contracting asbestos-related diseases are:
- 3M 8500 dust mask (first manufactured in 1962)
- 3M 8710 disposable respirator (introduced in 1972)
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Individuals who worked in close proximity to 3M caulking and adhesive products containing asbestos prior to the mid 1980s may be at an increased risk for the development of malignant mesothelioma. These products may have posed a health and safety risk to a number of individuals:
- Those involved in the production of these products (e.g., plant workers)
- Those involved in occupations using these products, including, but not limited to, boilermakers, engineers, mechanics, workers in the construction trades, HVAC workers, and shipyard workers
- Those exposed to these products years later in homes, buildings, and ships due to the release of fibers into the air as these products age and decompose or as home renovations are conducted
- Family members who may have come into contact with asbestos-contaminated garments of any of the aforementioned individuals
With regard to 3M’s mask and respirator products, individuals employed in any occupations or working in any environments requiring a mask to be worn as a preventive measure against occupational dust may be at risk for exposure to asbestos.
As of the year ending December 31, 2009, 3M had 2,510 asbestos claims pending with estimated liabilities of $34 million. This marked a decrease of nearly 200 claims from the prior year. The majority of these claims involve the company’s mask and respirator products.
3M posted full-year 2010 sales of $26.7 billion—an increase of 15.3% from 2009. The company anticipates good sales entering 2011, noting significant investments have been made by the company to improve long-term growth.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer