Fluoride Action Network

Editorial: Fluoridating water is good public health policy

Source: Star-Ledger | February 2nd, 2012

Opposition to fluoride in public water supplies began in the 1950s and the connection to the Red Scare is no coincidence — when true-blue Americans were trained to see “red” conspiracies and Commie spies hiding under every rock.

Those who feared fluoride believed that Communist cells had infiltrated our public works departments and convinced our governments to use fluoride as a mind-control agent on an unsuspecting United States. It’s true that fluoride is poisonous in large doses — and that’s all that fear-mongers needed to hear. Fluoride stored near reservoirs could poison our citizens faster and stealthier than any bomb.

Since then, the conspiracies have evolved — up to and including the worry that industrial polluters conceived of fluoridated water as a way to cheaply dispose of chemical wastes.

Here’s a bottom line you can sink your teeth into: Fluoride fights tooth decay. Yes, there is fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash, but for populations where dental hygiene is lacking or considered an expensive luxury, fluoride in drinking water is good public health policy.

A bill requiring fluoridation of all public water in New Jersey advanced in the Assembly this week. The 2012 version deserves a better fate than its predecessors. Since 2005, similar bills have never made it to a full Assembly vote — thanks to opponents who scared off votes with Chicken Little tales of health risks and wildly overstated start-up costs.

New Jersey ranks next-to-last for access to fluoridated water. Just 1.1 million of the Garden State’s 8.7 million people live in communities that add fluoride. Dentists — who should know best — favor fluoridation.

Most impressive, and most often cited by supporters, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for calling fluoridation “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” Since its start in 1945, fluoridation has helped reduce childhood tooth decay up to 70 percent, and adult tooth loss has fallen up to 60 percent.

Opponents of fluoride sound frighteningly similar to those who oppose vaccinations for their children — pointing to questionable studies “proving” health dangers while ignoring the broader societal health benefits. Or those who fight legal medical marijuana, withholding medicine from the sick while they worried that someone, somewhere might get high on a prescription joint.

In 2012, New Jersey shouldn’t allow proven health strategies to be derailed by unfounded fears. Just ask a chemo patient waiting for that first legal puff of medical marijuana.

Related opinion: Dentist: Fluoridated water no panacea for New Jersey