Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing 3M

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Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, known today as 3M, was founded in 1902 as a corundum mining operation. However, the mines contained a less-valuable mineral, so the company shifted focus to manufacturing. From 1935 to 1986, the company produced many asbestos-containing products, including adhesives. This past asbestos use has led to thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits against 3M. Today, the company continues to compensate asbestos victims from its own funds.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing History of Asbestos Use

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1902 – present
  • Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Production: Tape, sandpaper, masks, etc.
  • Asbestos Trust: No

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing had a failed start as a corundum mining company in 1902 and continued to face hardships in its early years. Its move three years later, from Two Harbors to Duluth, Minnesota, led to increased debt. While there, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing focused on producing sandpaper, although the company continued to struggle.

It wasn’t until a 1910 move to St. Paul, Minnesota, that the company became profitable. In 1914, 3M released its first exclusive product: Three-M-ite, an abrasive sandpaper cloth. The company’s early success with Three-M-ite was bolstered by the boom that followed World War I, and Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing paid its first dividend in 1916.

Throughout the following decades, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing diversified its product offerings with the advent of 3M™ Wetordry™ Waterproof Sandpaper, masking tape and Scotch® Cellophane Tape. These products paved the way for future expansion into other markets and also marked the beginning of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing’s asbestos use. The company used asbestos in its products from 1935 to 1986.

In 2002, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing changed its name to 3M. The company is now a household name.

During this time, the company also ventured into the personal protective equipment industry and produced masks and respirators worn by workers when completing jobs in dusty conditions. Although the personal protection equipment wasn’t made with asbestos, many individuals wore it thinking it could protect from toxic dust, such as asbestos dust, on the job. Unfortunately, these masks did not protect from harmful asbestos inhalation. Although the company claimed it never marketed the masks to be used for protection from asbestos, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing has faced many lawsuits because of such exposure.

The company’s profits and the usage of their products continued to grow as they produced materials for World War II and became publicly-traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2002, the company officially changed its name to 3M, to match its more robust and varied product offerings. At that point, 3M products were applicable in the health, science, construction and household industries. Today, the company manufactures more than 60,000 products and employs more than 93,000 people worldwide.

02. Asbestos Products

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Asbestos Products

It has been reported that Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing used asbestos in its products since its founding. However, the company ramped up its use of the toxin during the 1960s and continued to use the additive in its products until the 1980s.

Companies, such as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, used asbestos in products to increase durability, strength and heat- and fire-resistance.

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Products Included in Asbestos Lawsuits
List of Products Containing Asbestos
Product Name Start Year End Year
3M 8500 Dust mask
3M 8710 Dust mask
3M Adhesive 1935 1986
3M Caulk 1935 1986
3M Cement 1935 1986
3M Dust Masks
3M Rubber Coated Asbestos Cloth 1977 1987
3M Sandpaper 1971 1971
3M Sealers 1935 1986
3M Sticky Tar Caulking 1935 1940
3M Wet Adhesives 1935 1986

In addition to adding asbestos to their caulks and adhesives, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing has also faced asbestos-related backlash due to its faulty personal protection equipment. The company’s masks and respirator products have been the source of asbestos-related diseases because the equipment was not properly filtering out the microscopic asbestos fibers.

The faulty products include:

  • 3M 8500 dust mask (first manufactured in 1962)
  • 3M 8710 dust mask (first manufactured in 1962)

When these products were used on asbestos jobsites, inhalation of the toxic mineral was still possible. The 3M 8710 disposable respirator is no longer sold in the United States or Canada. To prevent further exposure, 3M has added warning labels to their respirators that state the products, including the 3M 8500 dust mask, are not approved for handling asbestos.

03. Occupational Exposure

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing and Occupational Exposure

Those employed by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing between 1928 and the 1980s may have experienced occupational asbestos exposure. Workers involved with the creation of the asbestos-containing products are among the most at risk of developing diseases.

Workers who actively used Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing products through the 1980s are also at risk of asbestos-related diseases. Any person who manipulated these products may have released toxic fibers into the air. Exposed occupations include those in the construction and HVAC industries.

Occupations Impacted by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing’s Asbestos Use

Due to the negligence of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, any person who used either the 3M 8500 dust mask or 3M 8710 disposable respirator to protect themselves in environments with asbestos may also be at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer or a related disease.

04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing has been named in numerous lawsuits as a result of their asbestos use and ineffective personal protection equipment. In 2002, the same year the company was celebrating changing its name to 3M, they were named defendants in 20,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. These lawsuits involved about 85,000 claimants. If you believe you or a loved one was exposed, learn how a mesothelioma lawyer can help.

At the time, the company was settling these cases out of court. In 2002, 3M’s average settlement for each claimant was less than $1,000. Settlements commonly ranged between $1,500 and $1,800.

Although these smaller settlements were frequent, the company has also had to pay larger compensation amounts for asbestos claims filed against them. In 2001, a Mississippi jury ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor and the company had to pay more than $22 million to four plaintiffs who developed asbestos-related diseases due to inadequate 3M masks and respirators.

3M Company v Johnson - Mississippi Supreme Court
  • James Curry, 65 years old, developed pleural thickening and asbestosis due, in part, to 3M masks. He was awarded $5 million.
  • Simeon Johnson, 53 years old, developed mild-asbestosis after inhaling asbestos fibers while wearing a 3M mask. He was awarded more than $6 million.
  • Bobby Joe Lawrence, 56 years old, developed mild-pleural thickening after working as a shipbuilder. He was awarded $5 million.
  • Phillip Pate, 49 years old, developed asbestosis after wearing a 3M mask and respirator. He was awarded more than $6 million.

In 2002, 3M reported it had $122 million in asbestos-related costs. However, this large sum did not stifle the company’s growth, as they had insurance for $184 million. This surplus in insurance allowed the company to avoid a bankruptcy filing.

In the years since, the asbestos claims filed against 3M have not slowed. In April 2018, a Kentucky jury awarded two miners, Leslie Cox and Michael Cox, $67 million after 3M masks failed to protect them from asbestos exposure.

The financial burden caused by asbestos litigation has led many other asbestos companies to file for bankruptcy. Today, 3M continues to be named in asbestos claims and pays successful claimants with their own funds.