Fluoride foes file lawsuits against Port Angeles, Forks
By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News
Fluoride opponents filed a lawsuit last week against the cities of Port Angeles and Forks in hopes of ending the practice of fluoridating public water on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Clallam County Superior Court, is the third the activists have filed against Port Angeles and the first against Forks.
Forks has fluoridated its water for nearly six decades, while Port Angeles has used fluoride since 2006.
Anti-fluoride activists from the Port Angeles and Sequim areas began challenging Port Angeles’ use of fluoride before it started.
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.
Then 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.
The petitioners — Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Clallam County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and retired Sequim physician Eloise Kailin — are now challenging the use of fluoride in the two communities on the basis that it doesn’t meet other state criteria.
The suit points to a section of the Washington Administrative Code that says drug products must have an approved new drug application from the Federal Food and Drug Administration to be used in the state.
Kailin said the petitioners believe the types of fluoride used by the cities — sodium fluoride in Forks an fluorosilicic acid in Port Angeles — have never received such an approval.
They base that on a public records request with the federal agency for the NDA documents but were told by the agency that they don’t exist, she said.
“As far as I know, this is the first time this issue has been raised,” Kailin said.
But why now in Forks?
Clallam County Citizens for Safe Drinking Water President Jim Bourget said it was time to expand the groups’ efforts.
“I just think to get it out of both systems would be the prudent thing to do,” he said.
Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon said he wasn’t surprised the city is included in the lawsuit because the petitioners have been seeking information on its water fluoridation program for a while.
But Monohon he said he is confident that fluoridation, intended to fight cavities, has been good for the people of Forks.
“We’ve been fluoridating water since the 1950s,” Monohon said.
“We believe it is a safe and effective thing to do.”
Forks City Attorney Rod Fleck said he had partially reviewed the lawsuit, and he questioned the validity of its claims during an interview Saturday.
“I don’t really understand their attempt to loop in some letter from the FDA that we’ve never seen,” he said.
“They’ve laced together a group of things that myself, [Port Angeles City Attorney] Bill Bloor and others are still trying to sort through.”
Kent Myers, Port Angeles city manager, said Friday he hadn’t reviewed the suit and couldn’t comment on its legal claims.
Bloor said Saturday he was out of town attending a Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys Conference last week and had not had time to review it.
The petitioners said they are opposed to the use of fluoride in public drinking water over concerns that too much can cause adverse health effects.
Overuse of fluoride, both a naturally occurring mineral and industrial by-product, can cause teeth spotting and 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 and Port Angeles reduced their fluoride amounts from 1 part per million to 0.7 parts per million after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was reducing the recommended range to 0.7 parts per million from 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.
The federal agency announced the proposed change in January after a recent government study that found two out of five adolescents have tooth streaking or spotting because they are receiving too much fluoride.
Port Angeles started fluoridating its water with the help of a $260,000 grant from the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
The agreement with the foundation says the city must continue to use fluoride for 10 years unless a court order stops it.
Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.