Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridegate and Fluoride Litigation: What law firms need to know about fluoride toxic tort actions

Source: American Association for Justice Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 2, Winter/Spring 2011 | March 29th, 2011 | By Chris Nidel, Rockville, MD & Daniel G. Stockin, Ellijay, GA

You have probably heard the recent news in the media about fluoride risks; a growing “Fluoridegate” scandal; cities dropping their longstanding policy of water fluoridation; and concerns about fluoride harm to kidneys, bones, thyroid glands, and teeth. For decades, Americans have heard of a long-simmering controversy over the whole-body safety of ingested fluorides. Now government agencies and private sector groups are admitting concerns about the impact to the body from fluorides in numerous consumer products. including water, beverages, foods made with fluoridated water or containing fluoride fumigant residues, and oral care products.

Of particular interest is news that infants, diabetics, kidney patients, and seniors are “susceptible subpopulations” that are particularly vulnerable to harm from fluorides. The number of potential plaintiffs in these and other groups foreshadows decades of fluoride-related court cases and investigations. As a result, scientists, health care professionals, businesses, and influential leaders are voicing concerns about fluorides. The Gerber baby products company is now selling an unfluoridated water to be used for making milk formula so that parents and others caring for infants will not use fluoridated water when mixing formula for babies.

A signature condition of excessive fluoride intake is “dental fluorosis,” a permanent and often disfiguring staining of teeth. A staggering number of Americans have the white, yellow, or brown staining or pitting of teeth caused by fluorides. Most never know what caused the staining. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 23 percent of people ages 6– 49 have fluorosis, as do 41 percent of adolescents agres 12–15 years old.

Public and private sector groups as well as individuals are potentially responsible for the financial and health impacts of fluorides provided to consumers without full disclosure of the risks. A partial list of defendants includes manufacturers of fluoridation chemicals, oral care product manufacturers, retailers, water utilities, medical and dental practitioners, and professional associations. Given the complexity of potential litigation, plaintiffs may choose to utilize market-share and other legal theories providing liability to a group of defendants for a single, indivisible injury.

Causes of action may include personal injury, failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, medical or dental malpractice, and consumer fraud. Because African-Americans and other minority groups are disproportionately harmed by fluorides, there may be civil rights and environmental justice avenues for legal cases.

The curtain is lifting, exposing the degree of deception at the root of the Fluoridegate scandal and highlighting the liability of both municipal water providers and private companies.