A lawsuit seeking to stop the use of fluoride in the drinking water in Port Angeles and Forks has been dismissed.
Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Craddock Verser dismissed the case Friday on the grounds that fluoride cannot be considered a prescription drug when used in a public water supply.
Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon said the decision is “good news” for the city, which has fluoridated its water since the 1950s.
“We’ve got enough on our plate to do without having to worry about what is essentially a federal issue, in my mind,” he said.
Said Port Angeles City Attorney Bill Bloor: “I’m very happy it was dismissed. We think it was fairly straightforward.”
The plaintiffs — Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Clallam County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and retired Sequim physician Eloise Kailin — argued that fluoride cannot be administered through drinking water because the federal Food and Drug Agency lists it as a prescription drug.
The two cities, in their motion to dismiss the case, said that designation does not apply to their use of fluoride because the FDA does not regulate public drinking water.
Verser, who heard the case to avoid conflicts of interest among Clallam County judges, agreed.
He wrote that the plaintiffs would have to meet two criteria to prove their case: that fluoride is a prescription drug under federal law and that it is listed in the 2009 edition of the Drug Topics Red Book.
Neither was met, Verser concluded.
“Because the FDA does not regulate public drinking water or drinking water additives, it is impossible for plaintiffs to prove that the first requirement for being a [prescription drug] under Washington law is met,” he said.
Kailin of Sequim said the fluoride opponents have not decided if they will appeal the decision.
She said they were surprised by the ruling but added they don’t think it resolves the issue of fluoridation on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“I think we were [surprised] because we thought we had a pretty good case,” Kailin said.
“Of course, it’s not a dead issue because they are still fluoridating the water,” she added.
Opponents said fluoride stains teeth and can cause long-term health effects, such as brittle bones.
A National Academy of Sciences report from 2006 said brittle bones can be caused by a lifetime of drinking fluoride at amounts of more than 4 parts per million.
Forks uses 1 part per million, while Port Angeles uses 0.8.
The fluoride opponents had previously challenged fluoridation only in Port Angeles, which started using it to help prevent tooth decay in 2006.
A lawsuit filed in 2005 seeking to require the city to meet criteria under the state Environmental Protection Act before fluoridating its water was tossed out of Jefferson County Superior Court.
The state Court of Appeals upheld that decision in 2007.
Last year, the state Supreme Court sided with City Hall in a legal challenge seeking to put anti-fluoride initiatives on the Port Angeles ballot.
No other water utility on the Peninsula uses fluoride.