The state Assembly health committee seems to be in an awful hurry to force municipalities in New Jersey to fluoridate their public water supplies.
A bill to require the fluoridation of water was introduced on Feb. 5 and unanimously approved by the committee less than two business days later on Monday afternoon.
Did we miss something? Is there a tooth decay epidemic sweeping across New Jersey?
More than a couple of days of hearing and discussing the issues involved is required for a proper vetting of this proposal, which was last seriously considered in 2005.
Did the committee members know about how the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Clean Water Council said fluoride is corrosive and would have a "tremendous financial impact" on both drinking water and sewer pipes?
Did they read about how fluoride is considered toxic and too much fluoride can discolor teeth, cause a crippling bone disease, and even possibly cause cancer in some adults?
Under the bill, the state would set up the standards and enforce the regulations. Whoever does so should first read a 2006 National Academy of Sciences’ report that said "EPA’s drinking water standard for fluoride does not protect against adverse health effects."
Environmental groups — including the Sierra Club chapter in New Jersey and the New Jersey Environmental Federation, a chapter of Clean Water Action — oppose the measure (A-3709). Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club said the concern is that, if this bill becomes law, industrial grade fluoride will be used — not the pharmaceutical type used in toothpaste. The industrial fluoride can contain toxics such as mercury, arsenic and lead.
"We should be taking toxics out of the water, not adding them to it," Tittel said.
Those who support the bill say adding fluoride to the water will help prevent tooth decay in children, especially in poorer families who don’t receive proper dental care.
Perhaps they would have second thoughts if they heard the costs involved, which we’re sure the Assembly’s appropriations committee will consider when it discusses the bill next.
Vineland and Millville don’t currently add fluoride to their water supplies. John Snidenbach, Vineland’s water utility superintendent, said the city has 13 wells or points of entry and it could cost $500,000 per well to fluoridate the water. That’s $6.5 million for Vineland alone, which would be paid for by taxpayers in the middle of a deep recession, a state budget crisis and a financial collapse when people are losing their homes and jobs. Millville has four points of entry where treating equipment would have to be installed. Multiply that figure to include the state’s hundreds of municipalities and water companies and the costs would be in the billions of dollars statewide.
"I’m against it," Snidenbach said.
Health concerns and the expense aren’t the only issues that must be discussed and debated. A companion bill isn’t listed in the Senate, but if there were one Sen. Jeff Van Drew, a dentist, said he would oppose it.
He’s worried about the cost. The senator also said he believes in the right of communities and individuals to choose what is best for themselves. That right would be lost if fluoridation is mandated by the state in such a dictatorial way as this.
There is a lot to talk about and debate with this controversial fluoridation bill. Other members of the state Legislature should show better judgment than the Assembly’s health committee did and give this bill a full evaluation before rushing to approve it.