Children across Buffalo were hospitalized for “major dental surgery” after drinking the city’s tap water, which has not contained fluoride in eight years, according to a new lawsuit filed by a group of Buffalo parents.
The son of Dana and Kenneth McWhite, who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court this week, “was hospitalized related to the implementation of eight crowns when he was 4-years-old,” the lawsuit states.
In addition, the daughter of Rebecca and Nolan Whipple, who lived on the city’s West Side, “was hospitalized for major dental surgery in 2023 at the age of five-years-old,” the lawsuit states.
Buffalo’s water system now contains far lower measurements of fluoride, which boosts dental health and guards against tooth decay, than what public health experts recommend. That puts Buffalo in the minority both nationally and in New York State.
The class-action lawsuit is an updated version of an original complaint – filed in January – that sought the immediate return of fluoride to Buffalo’s drinking water; the opening of free dental clinics throughout the city for residents with tooth decay; and $160 million in damages for the roughly 250,000 city residents who have been without fluoride since June 2015.
The lawsuit states that a “bombshell report in The Buffalo News” in January caused fury among residents and a backlash from elected officials and dentists. It criticizes Mayor Byron W. Brown’s administration for not yet resuming water fluoridation six months later.
Earlier this year, officials said fluoridation of city water would resume by year’s end. Asked Thursday, mayoral spokesperson Michael DeGeorge did not say when the city would begin fluoridating its water. DeGeorge released a statement from Buffalo Water Board Chairman Oluwole A. McFoy stating that construction plans and a cost estimate for the project would be submitted in two weeks, followed by construction and testing.
Since 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended an optimal fluoride concentration of 0.70 parts per million in community water systems. Buffalo’s fluoride concentration in its 2021 water quality report was 0.13 parts per million, more than five times lower than the recommended level.
Using fluoride toothpaste at home and getting children regular fluoride treatments from a dentist are among their recommendations.
The News reported that Buffalo stopped adding fluoride to its water system in June 2015, according to the Buffalo Water Board’s annual water quality report for that year.
Fluoridation was expected to be restored sometime after March 2016, the report stated. The next year, that estimate was pushed back to December 2017, before being extended to 2018 and 2019.
The updated lawsuit, which has nine more plaintiffs than the three who were named in January, was filed by Robert Corp of the Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria firm. Corp said he re-filed the suit because of a procedural issue with the original filing.
“I think there’s a real public harm here,” Corp told The News. In the updated filing, the lawyer said “we have young people, old people, people from a variety of races, people from different parts of the city.”
Brown in January took responsibility for the failure.
“The buck ultimately stops with me,” Brown told reporters in his City Hall office. “Like others, I was not immediately notified, but I should have been, and we should have put the information out to the community. No excuse for it.”
McFoy previously told The News the city was in the process of upgrading an outdated fluoride system when the lead water crisis in Flint, Mich., caused the water board to pause in 2016 and study whether the new type of fluoride system would have a corrosive effect on Buffalo’s many lead pipes.
McFoy said studies done in conjunction with the University at Buffalo showed the system is safe and the city will begin adding fluoride to its water again sometime this year.
“The community is still without any firm answers as to when (or if) the Defendants will actually resume fluoridating Buffalo’s water,” the lawsuit states.
*Original full-text article online at: https://buffalonews.com/news/local/buffalo-children-needed-major-dental-surgery-after-drinking-defluorinated-water-lawsuit-says/article_85974128-21a9-11ee-804e-d307ff266b55.html