3M was sued for faulty military ear pro. Now its surging production of N95 respirators

Kaylah Jackson
March 26, 2020 - 11:54 am
3M surge products N95 masks in response to COVID-19

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Around the country, companies are shifting manufacturing strategies to provide healthcare professionals with ventilators and masks in response to the growing need caused by COVID-19, 3M is one of them. However, 3M has a history of providing faulty personal protective equipment, particularly to the U.S. Military.

In 2019, 3M, which produces everything from air filters and Command Hooks, agreed to pay a $9.1 million settlement to the Department of Justice. Claims stated the company knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military. Veterans have come forward and alleged the ear pro was too short to fit correctly in the ear and would continuously loosen. 

As of February 2020, veterans are still filing suits against 3M. The original settlement was paid to the DOJ rather than the affected service members who claimed they experienced tinnitus, hearing loss, and loss of balance due to the faulty ear protection.

Now in 2020, 3M is providing thousands of pieces of medical protective equipment to healthcare workers. Currently, 3M produces more than 400 million N95 respirator masks a year. A March 20 news release announced the company has since then doubled its production to 100 million per month in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Two days later, chief executive officer of 3M, Mike Roman announced a partnership with Ford Motor Co. to accelerate the creation of powered air-purifying respirators, which blow air into the helmet of the wearer.

However, this isn't the first time the company has seen production go into overdrive. “We had H1N1, after that, we’ve had forest fires and hurricanes, and all of those create a surge in demand," Roman told Bloomberg Businessweek

3M could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.

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