"The Pittsburgh Case"

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The Pittsburgh Case

However, it was not necessary to wait very long for the opportunity to be fairly heard on the new evidence in Pittsburgh in the case of Aitkendead v. Borough of West View. The case was assigned to Judge John Flaherty who has since become the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. The suit rested on theory of nuisance, and went to hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction. Expert witnesses from the National Cancer Institute, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Royal College of Colleagues, as had occurred in Congress. After many sessions, followed by extensive summations on both sides, Judge Flaherty made his findings on November 16, 1978. He first described the main evidence by stating:


Over the course of five months, the court held periodic hearings which consisted of extensive expert testimony from as far away as England. At issue was the most recent time trend study of Dr. Burk and Dr. Yiamouyiannis, which compared the cancer mortality of 10 cities which fluoridated their water systems with 10 cities which did not fluoridate over a period of 28 years from 1940 to 1968. The study concluded that there was a significant increase in cancer mortality in the fluoridated cities.


He defined the sole issue of fact as “whether fluoride may be a carcinogen.” He then found that “point by point, every criticism made of the Burk-Yiamouyiannis study was met and explained by the plaintiffs. Often, the point was turned around against defendants. In short, this court was compellingly convinced of the evidence in favor of plaintiffs.”

Judge Flaherty entered a preliminary injunction. Since the facts of the case had been fully tried, a motion was prepared for an amended complaint to attach the constitutionality of imposed fluoridation, and for a permanent injunction, based on danger to public health. The motion was about to be filed when raw power showed itself with lightning speed and impressive clout to limit the political damage. The Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania quickly stayed the preliminary injunction, ignoring the facts judicially found, as if public safety were not an issue.


An administrative agency, which favored fluoridation as institutional policy, quickly and summarily entered “findings” which parroted USPHS (U.S. Public Health Service) propaganda. Another administrative agency, which had a similar institutional policy, then entered an “order” which purported to deny the Borough of West View “permission” to obey Judge Flaherty’s injunction. Events thus took bizarre turns to save a sacred cow.


Jurisdiction to enter the findings supporting the preliminary decree of November 16, 1978, was sustained on appeal shortly before Judge Flaherty was elevated to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth Court held that the cause could go no further before the judiciary under the pretext that exclusive jurisdiction belonged to the administrative agency. That was the end of the case, for all understood the notorious bias of the administrative agency which was not about to admit that it had promoted the dumping of carcinogenic agents into the environment. The appellate decisions left the findings of Judge Flaherty untouched, but departed widely from the traditional rule that, once a court of equity takes jurisdiction over the subject matter of a suit, such jurisdiction continues until the final decree, even though a basis for legal or administrative jurisdiction might later appear.


As the USPHS tried to press-release its way out of the crisis in the United States, the findings of Judge Flaherty became highly influential abroad. In the British House of Lords, the Earl of Yarborough accurately summed up the meaning of the case:


Already this evening examples have been quoted of what occurred in America. What I read was rather different from the picture painted this evening. It was my understanding if the case quoted was the case in Allegheny (County) in Pennsylvania that it was found proven that fluoride was a danger to health. I know that there was some legal wrangle about jurisdiction but I thought, on the facts presented by a number of experts, that that was the finding and that the facts had not been challenged but merely the jurisdiction of the court.


So important was the meaning of this case that it also attracted the attention of an investigative commission of the Environment Ministry of Quebec, chaired by Dr. Benoft Bundock who had been the principal medical officer for special projects in the Canadian Ministry of Health. The commission had been diligently studying world literature on fluoridation for over a year when Judge Flaherty returned his findings. They obtained the entire record of the proceedings in Pittsburgh.


Dr. Bundock and his colleagues returned a comprehensive report on November 30, 1979, acknowledging the laboratory studies of Dr. Taylor and the basic data of Dr. Burk, specifically concurred with the findings of Judge Flaherty, and recommended executive suspension of all efforts to enforce the mandatory fluoridation law of Quebec. This recommendation was accepted, and the moratorium has now continued almost twenty years through no less than six governments both pequist and liberal. So well regarded is this report that a standard ecology textbook, widely used in the secondary schools of Quebec, forthrightly acknowledges that fluoride in drinking water, as introduced through artificial fluoridation of public water supplies, is an environmental pollutant which caused cancer in man.

Find out what is in your tap water and what kind of filter you need by going to the

Environmental Working Group's website at www.ewg.org