Bloomberg Law
Oct. 31, 2022, 1:30 PM

Drinking Water Case Proceeds to Probe Fluoride Data, Court Says

Pat Rizzuto
Pat Rizzuto

A federal court will allow a lawsuit to prohibit fluoride from drinking water to proceed to review new scientific evidence about the chemical’s potential to harm babies’ developing nervous systems.

Judge Edward M. Chen of the US District Court Northern District of California ruled on Friday that the case—filed in 2017 by Food & Water Watch and other advocacy groups—can proceed to review a scientific study and two summary evaluations of multiple fluoride health effects studies. The case has been on hold since April 2021.

The science the court wants to review includes a May 2022 unpublished, draft version of a federal health agency’s assessment of fluoride’s neurodevelopmental and other health effects. The court will obtain the National Toxicology Program’s draft health assessment via a protective order and not disseminate it “at this juncture,” Chen ruled.

The court will decide the timing of future expert disclosures and other actions after it’s reviewed the scientific evidence, he said.

The court’s desire to view the new science doesn’t indicate a conclusion about “the admissibility or weight of the evidence,” Chen said.

Diverse Groups Tracking

The lawsuit is being tracked by dental and other medical professionals that believe fluoride helps prevent cavities, as well as chemical law experts, and environmental health groups concerned about fluoride’s health effects. The case involves chemical legislation and challenges the 77-year old tradition of adding fluoride to drinking water as a public health measure.

The case was unique when filed, as it was the first to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s dismissal of a citizen’s petition authorized by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The 2016 petition said fluoride’s cavity-fighting benefits result from it touching teeth—as through toothpaste—not swallowing it. Drinking water containing fluoride is an unreasonable risk that warrants a ban on its use, the Fluoride Action Network said in the petition that the EPA rejected and spurred the lawsuit.

The court’s decision—prior to putting the lawsuit on hold—to allow plaintiffs to submit new scientific evidence the agency hadn’t reviewed at the time it made its decision, and the court’s ruling that TSCA prevented the consideration of fluoride’s benefits, caught the attention of TSCA attorneys.

The case is Food & Water Watch Inc. v EPA, N.D. Cal., No. 19-02162, 10/28/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Renee Schoof at

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