The first week of the historic water fluoridation trial wrapped up on Friday afternoon after four days of occasionally tense testimony from expert witnesses with the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
One expert witness claimed he had been coerced into signing a statement downplaying his study which claimed fluoride is a neurotoxicant. Another witness confirmed that at least one type of fluoride is a pesticide being added to the water supply.
Attorneys with FAN argue that water fluoridation violates the 1970 Toxic Substances Control Act provisions which prohibit the “particular use” of a chemical which has been found to present an unreasonable risk to the general public. Under section 21 of the TSCA citizens are allowed to petition the EPA to regulate or ban individual chemicals.
The EPA is represented by lawyers from the Department of Justice who are presenting experts from the corporate firm Exponent Inc. The government is defending water fluoridation and seeking a dismissal of the petition by the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs in the case include: FAN, Moms Against Fluoridation, Food & Water Watch, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and the Organic Consumers Association.
FAN attorney Michael Connett called 3 witnesses throughout the week, including Howard Hu MD, Bruce Lanphear MD, Philippe Grandjean MD, and Kathleen Thiessen PhD. Connett told the court that the EPA has previously relied on the research of all of these experts in the past on other toxicants like lead and mercury.
Two of these experts have been authors of key fluoride studies funded by US government agencies. Connett noted that the EPA chose to use experts from Exponent rather than their own agencies experts.
The EPA did their part to question the Fluoride Action Network’s witnesses and diminish their credibility. Dr. KathleenThiessen made a powerful admission when interviewed by FAN attorney Connett, stating that sodium fluoride is a pesticide that is being added to the water supply.
However, during cross examination of Thiessen, the EPA asked if she is personal friends with the Connett family, including Paul Connett, Director of the Fluoride Action Network, and Michaell Connett, the lawyer representing FAN. Thiessen said yes she is friends with the family.
The EPA pressed further, asking if she had attended meetings sponsored by FAN, whether she is on the group’s mailing list, if she has appeared in interviews on their websites, and if she helped Paul Connett with his book The Case Against Fluoride.
Dr. Thiessen answered affirmatively to these questions but denied it had any influence on her conclusions that fluoride is harmful. When questioned whether or not she has been advocating for removing fluoride for decades, while maintaining a friendship with the plaintiffs, Thiessen said yes, but emphasized that her position was based on science.
The EPA then showed the court emails between plaintiff’s attorney Michael Connet and Thiessen. Connett sent Thiessen a list of studies to review and the EPA was attempting to show the judge that the plaintiff’s may have influenced Thiessen’s opinions and statements.
Dr. Howard Hu provided further background on his research on fluoride, testifying on the difficulty of getting his research funded by the National Institute of Health and the steps for publication in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.
Hu stated that his study found a loss of around 3 or 4 IQ points and this impact on population should not be ignored. He also discussed the parallels to lead neurotoxicity.
Corruption of Fluoride Science
One of the strongest witnesses for the plaintiffs was Danish environmental epidemiologist Dr. Phillip Grandjean, known for his work on the neurotoxicity of mercury. Granjean helped the EPA establish safe regulatory levels for mercury in the diet.
Dr. Grandjean stated that he had been threatened or coerced by a colleague at the Harvard Dental School after one of his studies concluded that fluoride was a neurotoxin.
When DOJ lawyer Debra Carfora asked Grandjean about a statement he signed downplaying the significance of the results, Grandjean stated that the Harvard press department put the statement together and added his name to it. The statement said the researchers still agreed with the CDC position that water fluoridation is safe.
Dr. Grandjean did not elaborate upon who threatened him or how often such threats may happen in his field. He also stated that the “fluoride lobby” infiltrated a World Health Organization committee seeking to exclude any mention of harmful effects of fluoride.
On the specific harmful effects of fluoride, Dr. Grandjean stated in his deposition that, “the weight of epidemiological evidence leaves no reasonable doubt that developmental neurotoxicity is a serious human health risk associated with elevated fluoride exposure.” Dr. Grandjean has also stated that efforts to control human fluoride exposure need to focus on pregnant women and small children.
During his testimony Granjean took particular issue with statements made by the EPA’s expert Dr. Cheng. “What she has written should not be relied upon… This is not science, this is simply a misleading report.” Grandjean elaborated, stating, “I’m embarrassed that the EPA would recruit Dr. Chang, who has already tried to kill some of my work on polyfluorinated chemicals, that they would recruit her to write this report full of biases. I get a little upset about it… I’m sorry to see what has happened to a colleague that works for a product defense firm.”
This issue of the EPA’s experts working for Exponent was a theme of several of the plaintiffs’ witnesses. At least two of the EPA’s witnesses – Ellen Chang, ScD and Joyce Tsuji, PhD – are employed by Exponent Inc, a firm accused of paying the U.S. government to defend dangerous chemicals. Plaintiff’s witness Dr. Lamphear also called out the scientists working for Exponent as industry friendly “rent-a-white-coats.”
The apparent conflicts of interest were the topic of conversation again on Friday when FAN attorney Michael Connett cross examined the government’s witness Dr. Joyce Tsuji, a board-certified toxicologist and a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences, who specializes in risk assessment of chemical exposures.
Connett asked Dr. Tsuji if she has been funded by mining and smelting companies which “release arsenic into the air.” Connett also asked Tsuji if the majority of her projects have been funded by industry. Tsuji agreed that most of her work has come from industry funded sources.
The afternoon ended with plans for Dr. Tsuji to be cross examined by the plaintiff’s attorneys.
Court will resume on Monday June 15, at 8:30 am pacific.