Trial in San Francisco could lead to the removal of fluoride from drinking water
A trial is currently underway in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco in a lawsuit demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban fluoride chemicals from the water supplies across the U.S., and the outcome could finally put an end to a dangerous and common practice throughout the country.
The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) will argue that fluoridating water is a violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), specifically the part relating to the use of a chemical that has been found to pose an unreasonable risk to public health. Section 21 of the act allows citizens to petition the EPA to ban or regulate specific chemicals.
The group began its legal fight when they presented a Citizens’ Petition along with several other organizations and individuals back in 2016. It called for the EPA to ban the addition of fluoridation chemicals in American water based on studies showing the chemical is a neurotoxin at the doses that are being used throughout the country.
The trial was first set to begin in August 2019 but was then postponed until this April; the coronavirus crisis meant it had to be pushed back once again. Some of the plaintiffs who joined FAN in the case include Moms Against Fluoridation, Food and Water Watch, the Organic Consumers Association, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.
They presented recent studies showing that when a pregnant woman drinks fluoridated water, her children have a significantly greater likelihood of suffering from neurological damage, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a lower IQ. They said that fluoridated toothpaste offers the same benefits as fluoridated water without the risks.
The witnesses for the plaintiff include risk assessment scientist Kathleen Thiessen, medical expert Bruce Lanphear, environmental epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean, and scientist Howard Hu. All four witnesses have been used by the EPA in the past as experts on the neurotoxicity of mercury and lead.
Could we see a “historic shift” soon?
Following the first day of testimony in the trial, attorney Michael Connett said that the trial could bring about “a historic shift in how we go about using and regulating fluoride.”
The case is being heard by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen without a jury. Chen has already rejected a move by the EPA to introduce evidence in the first phase of the trial showing that fluoride’s benefits outweigh its health risks.
The first phase of the trial is scheduled throughout next week. Chen will then decide whether the risk posed by fluoride in drinking water is unreasonable. Should he reach that conclusion, he is expected to order the EPA to start eliminating the risk via rule-making proceedings that they would debate in the trial’s second phase.
Fluoride was first added to drinking water in the U.S. in the 1940s, and now it’s found in the majority of the water systems that serve big populations. However, some communities have banned it, with one notable location being Portland, Oregon.
In addition to the link between fluoride and problems in children such as low IQ and ADHD, other studies have found it can lead to more health problems, such as urinary stone disease, thyroid problems, weight gain and depression.
With almost two thirds of Americans drinking water that contains fluoride, a move to reduce or eliminate fluoride in drinking water could have a huge impact on public health. The judge has already made a few rulings about evidence in favor of the plaintiffs, so there is reason to hope that some real progress can be made here.
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