New Trial Start Date & Potential Viewing Restrictions
The start date for the last phase of the federal trial against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the neurotoxicity of fluoridation chemicals has been pushed back by two days to Wednesday, January 31st, 2024. At the most recent status hearing, the judge noted that a complex criminal trial was taking place before ours, and the additional days would act as a buffer to reduce the chances of our start date being delayed at the last minute. The court has scheduled our trial to go through Wednesday, February 14th, though attorneys for FAN and the EPA acknowledged that they may not need to use all of those days.
During the first phase of the trial–in the summer of 2020 and in the midst of the pandemic–the proceedings were live streamed using Zoom and experts provided testimony virtually. While recording was prohibited, a much larger portion of the public had an unprecedented opportunity to witness every second of the trial than could have occurred with an in-person trial in San Francisco pre-Covid. FAN has always preferred a virtual trial, and at recent status hearings, both the judge and attorneys for the EPA said they believed the virtual trial went very well.
Unfortunately, the federal act (CARES Act) that allowed for live streaming of federal court proceedings has expired. The judge said that he was awaiting a ruling in the coming weeks by another court on this issue and was seeking guidance from the Judicial Conference, which sets policy for federal courts. He stated that the current policy from the Conference may already permit live streaming of audio only, but live streaming of video may ultimately be prohibited.
The judge stated clearly that he felt “the public has an interest” in this case and should be able to watch. He offered another option in case live streaming was not permitted, suggesting that the court take advantage of their pilot program called Cameras in the Courtroom to record the trial and post the video to their website. He noted that both parties would need to consent for this to take place. When asked, attorneys for the EPA said they “wouldn’t object” to a Zoom trial or a recording of the proceedings.
The expiration of the CARES Act also means that our attorneys will have to present live from the federal courthouse in San Francisco, and some of our experts may have to as well. This change will increase costs significantly due to transportation and hotel expenses. However, the judge said that his hope would be that expert witnesses would still be able to provide testimony remotely.
A status hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. (U.S. Pacific time) on Monday, December 4th. At that time, the court expects to have more information on the new judicial guidelines regulating live streaming of audio and video to the public and virtual testimony from witnesses.
Expert Witnesses Announced
Attorneys also announced the expert witnesses for the final trial dates. FAN will be calling the same world renowned experts who testified in the first phase of the trial. These include:
–Philippe Grandjean, MD, DMSc, is a physician, award-winning researcher, and Chair of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, as well as a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He authored and co-authored numerous studies and reviews on fluoride’s neurotoxicity, including Choi et al., 2012 and Choi et al., 2014, his updated review on fluoride neurotoxicity (Grandjean, 2019), and the first benchmark dose analysis on fetal fluoride exposure (Grandjean et al., 2021).
–Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, is a medical doctor (MD) with a Masters of Public Health (MPH). He received his doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He is an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital and a professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on fetal and childhood exposures to environmental neurotoxins. Dr. Lanphear is well-known in the environmental science community for authoring seminal research on the neurotoxicity of low levels of lead. He’s also a co-author of the Green et al., 2019 and Till et al., 2020 fluoride studies.
–Howard Hu, MD, Sc.D, MPH, is a medical doctor with a Masters in Public Health and a Doctorate of Science in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. He has taught epidemiology at Harvard, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, and the USC Keck School of Medicine where he currently serves as the Chair of Preventive Medicine. He has authored over 300 papers published in peer-reviewed journals and has published five studies on fluoride, including Bashash 2017 and 2018.
–Kathy Thiessen, Ph.D, is the director and senior scientist at the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis. Her research focuses on the evaluation of exposures, doses, and risks to human health from trace levels of contaminants in the environment and on the use of uncertainty analysis for environmental and health risk assessment. She has authored several reports for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the health effects of environmental contaminants, and she served on two National Research Council (NRC) subcommittees, including the 2006 NRC committee that was asked by the EPA to review the toxicological literature on fluoride.
The EPA will be calling Stan Barone, a representative from the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. They’ll also be calling Professor of Epidemiology at Brown University, David Savitz, Ph.D. He was the Chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s ad hoc committee that peer reviewed the National Toxicology Program’s systematic review of fluoride neurotoxicity. The EPA’s final witness will be Spanish environmental epidemiology researcher Jesus Ibarluzea, Ph.D.
We’re getting close to what appears to be the end of this very long fluoride lawsuit journey that started with a TSCA petition to the EPA in 2015. Everyone here at FAN is feeling incredibly confident and excited to start the final phase of the trial in less than 90 days. We truly appreciate your unwavering support throughout this 8+ year process. Thank you for standing with us in our pursuit for justice and safe drinking water.
Stuart Cooper, Executive Director
Fluoride Action Network