3M Knowingly Sold Flawed PPE to U.S. Military, Finds New American Prospect-Economic Liberties Investigation

July 9, 2020 Press Release

Washington D.C — The American Prospect and the American Economic Liberties Project today released “3M: Monopoly, Misrepresentation and Malpractice,” a new investigation from Economic Liberties’ Policy Analyst Olivia Webb that exposes 3M’s plot to sell flawed earplugs to the U.S. military, which caused hundreds of thousands of troops to suffer hearing loss.

Webb’s damning account traces the development of the faulty Combat Arms Earplug, at one point the standard for all deploying servicemembers, and reveals how 3M cut corners, falsified evidence, and leveraged its monopoly power to amass outsized profits, satisfy private equity investor, and prolong servicemembers’ use of products that led to hearing loss. Indeed, Webb shows that it was only after 3M filed suit to strong-arm another earplug manufacturer out of the business that the startling paper trail of falsified data was discovered.

“By prioritizing profits over people, Aearo and 3M executives became very wealthy and put millions of US soldiers at risk for lifelong hearing loss,” said Olivia Webb, Policy Analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Executives and scientists at the corporation knew the earplugs were faulty and produced them anyway. Hundreds of thousands of troops are suffering from hearing loss that never should have happened.”

Today, more than 160,000 veterans, current soldiers and a few civilians are suing 3M for its deception, alleging hearing loss as a result of the earplugs. Meanwhile, 3M has obtained a military contract totaling $1 billion and awarded without competitive bidding to produce N95 masks and other equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the largest federal contract related to COVID-19.

Read “3M: Monopoly, Misrepresentation and Malpractice” here.

Learn more about Economic Liberties here.


Economic Liberties works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. AELP believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.