SUBMITTED BY DANIEL G. STOCKIN, MPH
Legal Community Awakens as Federal Fluoride Harm Case Proceeds to Oral Arguments and Fluoride Harm Newspaper Advertising Appears
March 12, 2014: Legal community interest in the long-smoldering controversy over use of fluorides is growing as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has agreed to hear oral arguments in the fluoride harm case of Nemphos versus Nestle Waters North America, Inc., et al.
The case centers around “dental fluorosis” disfigurement of teeth caused by childhood ingestion of fluorides in water and other products.
The Washington D.C.-based law firm Public Justice has joined other plaintiff firms to help argue the case. Public Justice has more than 3,000 affiliated attorneys.
In another development, advertisements seeking students with dental fluorosis are beginning to appear in newspapers at universities, such as The Hoya newspaper at Georgetown University.
The advertisements show photos of dental fluorosis teeth staining and inform students that those with fluoride teeth harm may be entitled to monetary damages.
“There are a lot of harmed people out there that were not told the facts about fluorides, nor have they seen documentation of what dental leaders knew and admitted amongst themselves about fluorosis,” says attorney Chris Nidel.
“Fluoride providers and promoters are now under the microscope as the Fluoridegate scandal unfolds,” he says. “In their own publications, dentists warned of a day when fluoride litigation would arrive.”
Nidel’s law firm and the firm of Paulson and Nace have been with the case from the beginning. Public Justice is adding its expertise to argue that defendants in the case cannot use federal laws to preempt state legal actions on fluoride harm.
The plaintiff in the Nemphos case is a mother who purchased fluoride-containing products for her daughter, believing she was helping her child avoid cavities. The mother claims she was not warned about the possibility of costly-to-repair disfiguring fluorosis that later manifested in her daughter’s teeth.
Major dental organizations continue to promote use of fluorides, claiming the fluorosis stains are mostly barely visible and fit in a designation of “mild” or “very mild.”
“The so-called ‘mild’ fluorosis of the Nemphos girl is certainly not barely visible,” says Daniel Stockin, a career public health professional opposed to water fluoridation who now speaks regularly with law firms about fluoride issues.
“The fluorosis classification system used by dentists hides the severity of it,” Stockin says. “The system specifically tells dentists to ignore an individual’s worst fluoride-stained tooth in classifying a person’s fluorosis severity, and the system does not take into account the total number of teeth affected. Twelve teeth or two teeth with stains, both are allowed to be called ‘very mild’ or ‘mild’ fluorosis. This revelation will be deeply disturbing to citizens and elected leaders who were misled about fluorosis.”
An article in the Journal of Dental Research acknowledged increasing amounts of fluorosis, calling it undesirable and saying it “places dental professionals at an increased risk of litigation.”
Another article in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology echoed the warning about lawsuits, specifically addressing fluoride supplements: “It is only a matter of time until a case is brought that gets public attention. The risk is that noticeable fluorosis will be perceived by the public as a toxic consequence of fluoride ingestion – which, arguably, it is – and there will be a reaction against all uses of fluoride…”
On its website, Public Justice describes the advertising of fluoride-containing products offered by defendants in the Nemphos case: “Advertising like Nestle’s and Dannon’s, which induce consumers to purchase a product by touting an ingredient’s benefits without warning of that same ingredient’s known hazards, is generally prohibited by state tort and consumer protection laws. Those laws allow wronged consumers to sue for injuries the product caused.”
“Fluorides are a concern for both young children and college students and others,” Stockin says. “For college students seeing the fluorosis newspaper advertisements, they know that fluorosis impacts their job interviews, their self confidence, their professional relationships, and even personal and dating relationships in a very real way. For parents of young children, fluorosis on their child’s teeth can mean financial costs in the future, and of course they wonder what other harm has also occurred, such as impact on kidneys, thyroid glands, bones, and even IQ. So I think perhaps it’s not surprising that what consumers are hearing about fluorides from product sellers is changing.”
A toddler training toothpaste referenced in the Nemphos case filings warns of white spots on children’s teeth from swallowed fluorides. Several companies now sell an unfluoridated toddler training toothpaste described as safe if swallowed because they are fluoride-free.