The Stream, June 11, 2020: Federal Lawsuit Could End Addition of Fluoride to Drinking Water in U.S.

The Global Rundown

A key U.S. lawsuit that could limit fluoride levels in drinking water goes to trial this week. Heavy flooding in south and central China displaces more than 200,000 residents. The state of Michigan sues the owner of the failed Edenville Dam. The proportion of children in the U.S. who do not drink tap water began to rise following the Flint water crisis, researchers at Penn State University and Northwestern find. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan begin another round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after discussions earlier this year in Washington D.C. failed to reach a consensus. 

“We hope to continue in this spirit in the coming days to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues.” –Yasser Abbas, the irrigation minister of Sudan, in reference to another round of talks being held in relation to the GERD. For several years, Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia have been attempting to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the controversial dam, which Egypt fears could devastate its water supply. An agreement was drawn up this February following U.S.-led talks, but Ethiopia did not attend the signing and Egypt was ultimately the only signatory. Reuters 

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By The Numbers

228,000 Residents of south and central China who have sought emergency shelter due to flooding, which began affecting the region on June 2. Officials estimate that the flooding has caused damages in excess of $500 million and destroyed at least 1,000 homes. Associated Press

14 years Length of time that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) attempted to address safety concerns surrounding the Edenville Dam before revoking the dam’s hydropower-generating license in September 2018. The dam, which failed on May 19 and contributed to widespread flooding in mid-Michigan, is owned by Boyce Hydro LLC. According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Boyce’s failure to respond to the FERC’s safety concerns is part of a “long history of neglect” that led to the recent failure. The state announced a lawsuit against Boyce on Tuesday. Detroit Free Press

Science, Studies, and Reports

The proportion of children in the United States who do not drink tap water was decreasing nationwide until the Flint water crisis, after which the proportion of children not drinking tap water started to rise. Researchers at Penn State University and Northwestern came to that conclusion after analyzing data from a federal health survey. Adult behavior was unchanged after the crisis, which peaked in 2014-15. In general, poor and minority residents distrust tap water and use more bottled water, a response that can signal underlying issues with tap water quality and access, the researchers argue. Children not drinking tap water do have lower levels of lead in their blood, but they exhibit other health problems, such as being overweight, having dental issues, and consuming more sugary beverages. Water Resources Research

On the Radar

A major federal trial is underway that could end water fluoridation, a practice that has been widespread in the United States since the 1940s. At the time, fluoride was added to water supplies to combat tooth decay. Now, a coalition of consumer groups argues that recent studies show possible health risks from fluoridated water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several worldwide health groups deny the claims, saying that there is no evidence that fluoridated water is unhealthy. The lawsuit is being heard without a jury by federal District Court Judge Edward M. Chen in California. San Francisco Chronicle  

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