Judge pushes parties in fluoridation case to confer before issuing ruling
A federal judge has asked the US EPA and environmental advocates to try to reach an agreement before he makes a ruling in a potentially far-reaching case involving a TSCA citizens’ petition asking the agency to limit [sic, ban] the addition of fluoride to drinking water.
The decision is being closely watched, as a plaintiff victory could spur more advocacy groups to take advantage of TSCA, section 21, the law’s citizens’ petition provision, in an effort to get a court to force the agency to take action on a particular substance.
If the EPA loses the trial, and the court rules that the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence, “then it encourages many more such petitions by NGOs”, Steve Owens, a partner with law firm Squire Patton Boggs, told Chemical Watch.
At issue in the trial was the EPA’s 2017 decision to deny a petition from Food & Water Watch, the Fluoride Action Network and others that wanted the agency to use its authority under section 6 of TSCA to ban the addition of fluoride to drinking water in the US.
The case put Judge Edward M Chen of the US District Court for the Northern District of California in the unique position to weigh evidence and decide if a chemical might present an unreasonable risk to human health, a role generally reserved for the EPA.
Both sides made their closing arguments in the case on 17 June, but Judge Chen gave the parties additional time to reach a potential resolution.
Additional studies on the health effects of fluoride have come to light since the plaintiffs first filed their petition with the EPA in 2016.
In light of the new data, Judge Chen suggested the parties could consider a renewed review of the 2016 petition or starting a new petition, which would give the EPA 90 days to make a new finding.
Restarting that process, however, could be a heavy lift for an agency already under pressure to meet multiple TSCA deadlines this summer.
The judge set a status hearing for 6 August, at which time the parties can report any progress toward an out of court resolution.
*Original article online at https://chemicalwatch.com/127334/federal-trial-over-tsca-citizens-petition-concludes-without-ruling