The Fluoridation Plan
THE FLUORIDATION PLAN [specify ordinance currently at issue] IS NOT IN CONFLICT WITH THE FEDERAL OR STATE CONSTITUTIONS, NOR IS IT IN CONFLICT WITH [applicable state or federal laws].
[Specify fluoridation measure at issue] can be applied in conjunction wThe ith the state and federal constitutions, and/or is not in conflict with [alleged conflicting statute]. Several courts have considered attacks of this nature; most have rejected them.
In Chapman v. Louisiana, 74 So.2d 142, 146 (La. 1954), the Supreme Court of Louisiana considered the allegation made by the plaintiff that a fluoridation ordinance violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In rejecting this argument, the Court stated:
The Fourteenth Amendment does not deprive a state or its subdivisions of the right to preserve order or to protect the health of the people under its police power, and in the exercise of its power the legislative branch may interfere with and impair the individual liberty of the citizens in a manner and to an extent reasonably necessary for the public interest, and the courts will not interfere except where the measures invade fundamental rights or are arbitrary, oppressive, or unreasonable. Id.
The plaintiffs in Chapman also alleged that the city of Shreveport did not have the authority to enact a fluoridation measure under the state constitution. The district judge in Chapman had concluded that the city lacked the power to take this action under its police power. The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision, finding that the power to add fluorides to the public water could be found within the charter of the city of Shreveport, which was enacted pursuant to Article 14, § 37 of the Louisiana Constitution. Id. at 145.
Other arguments advanced by opponents of water fluoridation have also focused on the particular grant of authority the measure was enacted pursuant to. In DeAryan v. Butler 260 P.2d 98 (Cal.App. 4 th Dist. 1953), the court considered the assertion by a taxpayer of the affected county that in requiring the fluoridation of city water the municipality had exceeded the powers granted to it by charter. In making its decision, the court discussed the state statutes governing the required quality of water, as well as the legislature’s grant of authority to the city council to “regulate the purity, potability and wholesomeness of public waters”. Id. at 101. The court explained that the State Board of Health had concluded, after due consideration, that the fluoridation requirements did not conflict with the required standards of water. Therefore, the city council had not exceeded its authority as it had acted in conjunction with state water standards. Id. at 102.
Kaul v. City of Chehalis, 277 P.2d 352, 354 (Wash. 1954), involved a similar attack by the plaintiff, a taxpayer and registered voter of the city, that the City Council had exceeded its authority in adopting an ordinance providing for the fluoridation of city water. The Supreme Court of Washington pointed out that the state Constitution authorized cities to make sanitary and other regulations as long as they did not conflict with other laws of the state. Id. The court also pointed out that a state statute, which could be read in conjunction with the Constitution, gave the city the authority “to prevent the introduction and spread of disease.” Id. The City of Chehalis’ ordinance was upheld, and the city was allowed to proceed with its plans to add fluorides to the public water supply. Id. at 356.
Recently, however, the Washington Supreme Court did strike down a resolution mandating the fluoridation of certain water systems adopted by a county board of health, finding that it irreconcilably conflicted with other statutes.[ Parkland Light & Water Co. v. Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health, 90 P.3d 37 (Wash. 2004)] A state statute in existence prior to the adoption of the resolution gave water districts in the county the authority to decide whether to fluoridate their systems. Id. at 40. The court held that the Board of Health resolution conflicted with the state statute and was thus invalid. Id. “Essentially, the Board's resolution is a local regulation that prohibits what state law permits: the ability of water districts to regulate the content and supply of their water systems expressly granted to them by statute. The resolution ordering fluoridation takes away any decision-making power from water districts with respect to the content of their water systems, and the express statutory authority granted to water districts pursuant to RCW 57.08.012 (the state statute) would be rendered meaningless.” Id.
The dissent in Parkland Light refers to the Kaul decision, noting that it is still good law, and that the majority in the Parkland Light case came to the wrong conclusion. “The majority incorrectly concludes that the legislature’s grant of permissive authority to decide on fluoridation of their water systems….However, the court should conclude that there is no conflict between the Board’s resolution and RCW 57.08.012 having regard to the context and legislative history.” Id. at 41.
Although the majority in the Parkland Light case did strike down the fluoridation measure, that holding has no bearing on the present case. Here, [government entity/agency] acted according to a valid delegation of legislative authority and did not infringe any other agency’s authority in so acting.
Attaya v. Town of Gonzales, 192 So.2d 188 (La.App. 1 st. Cir. 1966), involved a different kind of attack against the municipality’s authority to fluoridate the water. In this case, citizens of the town alleged that defects in the form and procedure followed in adopting the fluoridation ordinance should render the ordinance invalid. Id. at 189. The city subsequently adopted a new ordinance in full compliance with the required procedure. The court refused to consider plaintiffs attacks regarding defects in procedure, citing as its reason that a later valid ordinance existed on the record and would be considered as controlling for purposes of the matter. Id. at 190.
Still other arguments center on alleged conflicts between fluoridation measures and specific statutes other than the state and federal constitutions. Like the allegations that fluoridation measurers are unconstitutional, these arguments have not fared well.
For example, in Dowell v. City of Tulsa, 273 P.2d 859, 864 (Okla. 1954), the opponents alleged that a fluoridation measure violated a state statute prohibiting the sale of food which contained fluorine compounds. In rejecting the argument, the court explained that the fluoridation measure had set forth specific regulations regarding the amount of fluoride to be added to the water and was thus not unreasonable or a violation of the statute. Id.
In Froncek v. City of Milwaukee, 69 N.W.2d 242, 251 (Wis. 1955), opponents of a water fluoridation measure alleged that it violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Froncek court rejected the argument, citing an opinion of the U.S. Attorney General that the Act did not prevent the addition of fluorides to municipal water supplies. Id.
These cases are important because they reiterate the judiciary’s position that actions taken by state legislatures pursuant to the broad powers granted to them via the United States Constitution should not be disturbed by the courts unless they can be found to be arbitrary or unreasonable.