In a victory for water fluoridation opponents, a judge in the Northern District of California has denied a motion by the Environmental Protection Agency that sought to limit the information available to the court while making their decision on whether or not to ban water fluoridation. The lawsuit was brought forth by Food and Water Watch Inc. and a coalition of health organizations and individuals concerned about fluoride. Under section 21 of The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) citizens are allowed to petition the EPA to regulate or ban individual chemicals. Food and Water Watch filed the lawsuit after the EPA rejected a citizen petition calling for the EPA to ban the addition of fluoride chemicals to the drinking water supply.
As the lawsuit proceeded the EPA interpreted the language of the law to mean the judge should be limited to reviewing the information the EPA provided when it decided to reject the petition on February 17, 2017. “The disagreement is whether, in reaching its own decision, the court can consider information that the EPA did not have access to e.g. expert testimony, new studies, documents obtained in discovery, etc.,” Michael Connett, the attorney representing the coalition told Bloomberg Environment before the ruling.
National Law Review reported on the ruling:
In denying the EPA’s motion, the court specifically held that the phrase “de novo proceeding” indicates that Congress intended a broad scope of review because the word “proceeding” encompasses all regular activities of a lawsuit, including discovery beyond the administrative record. Because the purpose of the TSCA is to protect the public from chemicals that pose unreasonable risks to health and the environment, the court held that “[a] de novo proceeding in district court modeled after traditional trial-like proceedings would not conflict with the purpose of the TSCA, but would instead effectuate it.”
The court’s ruling means that the trial will now have larger implications for the legality of water fluoridation. If the coalition of fluoride opponents is successful in their lawsuit, the EPA may be forced to reconsider the petition to ban water fluoridation.
What is Fluoride?
The substances added to municipal water supplies known by the name fluoride are actually a combination of unpurified byproducts of phosphate mining. In the United States thousands of tons of fluorosilicic acid is recovered from phosphoric acid plants and then used for water fluoridation. During this process the fluoride ion is created.
This process of taking waste from the phosphate industry and putting it into drinking water has long been criticized for its effects on human health and the environment. It is well known that water fluoridation has led to dental fluorosis for millions of children. This discoloring of the teeth was called “cosmetically objectionable” by the Centers for Disease Control.
Beyond the cosmetic effect there have been several studies indicating overwhelming health issues related to fluoride, especially for children. Another study found a connection between exposure to water fluoridated at relatively low concentrations and a reduced IQ among children.
As recent as September 2017 the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published the study “Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6–12 Years of Age in Mexico,” examining the results of prenatal exposure to fluoride and the potential health concerns. The researchers called the study “one of the first and largest longitudinal epidemiological studies to exist that either address the association of early life exposure to fluoride to childhood intelligence or study the association of fluoride and cognition using individual biomarker of fluoride exposure.” The study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found that higher prenatal fluoride exposure was associated with lower scores on tests for cognitive function at age four, and between ages six and twelve. The researchers acknowledge that their results are “somewhat consistent” with past ecological studies which indicate children living in areas of high fluoride exposure have lower IQ scores than those in low-exposure areas.
A study published in the journal General Dentistry warns that infants are at risk of dental fluorosis due to overexposure from fluoride in commercially available infant foods. The researchers analyzed 360 different samples of 20 different foods ranging from fruits and vegetables, chicken, turkey, beef, and vegetarian dinners. Chicken products had the highest concentrations of fluoride, followed by turkey. The New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation (NYSCOF) reports that the fluoride levels were due to pesticides, fertilizers, soil, groundwater, and/or fluoridated water. The high levels found in the chicken and turkey can be attributed to “fluoride-saturated bone dust” involved in the process of mechanically separating the meat.
Another study published in Environmental Health found a potential connection between fluoride exposure and the prevalence of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The researchers studied data on ADHD among children age four to seventeen collected in 2003, 2007 and 2011 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health, as well as state water fluoridation data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected between 1992 and 2008 . It is the first study to analyze the relationship between exposure to fluoridated water and ADHD prevalence.
The team discovered that children living in areas with a majority of the population receiving fluoridated water from public water systems “tended to have a greater proportion of children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. ” The researchers concluded that:
this study has empirically demonstrated an association between more widespread exposure to fluoridated water and increased ADHD prevalence in U.S. children and adolescents, even after controlling for socioeconomic status (SES). The findings suggest that fluoridated water may be an environmental risk factor for ADHD.
Previous studies have shown rats exposed to fluoride chemicals also exhibit ADHD-like symptoms.
In addition to these studies related to fluoride and children, dozens of other studies have indicated a variety of health problems. A recent study published in the Journal of Analytical Chemistry indicates that fluoride ions found in fluoridated water and toothpaste may lead to an increase in Urinary Stone Disease (USD). The study was conducted by chemists from Russia and Australia, led by Pavel Nesterenko at the University of Tasmania. The team studied 20 urinary stones from patients at a Russian hospital and discovered fluoride ions in 80% of the stones. This could be due to high levels of fluoride in patients’ urine, possibly from drinking water containing fluorides and ingesting fluoride toothpaste.
A study published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health confirmed fluoride’s negative effect on the thyroid gland and a possible connection to depression, weight gain, and other negative health effects. Researchers with the University of Kent in England examined thyroid activity for those in areas with fluoridated water and those without. The team examined 95 percent of the English population in 2012 and 2013 and found that high rates of underactive thyroid were 30% more likely in areas with high fluoride concentration. An underactive thyroid can lead to depression, weight gain, fatigue and aching muscles.