A bill working its way through the New Jersey Legislature would require adding fluoride to the state’s water supplies.
The state Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee last month approved a measure requiring water companies across New Jersey to add the element.
Proponents say the New Jersey Public Water Supply Fluoridation Act — A1811 in the Assembly and S959 in the Senate — would help combat tooth decay.
The Assembly panel approved the bill Jan. 30 by a 9-0 vote, with two abstentions. It is scheduled for a vote before the full Assembly on Feb. 16, according to a local lawmaker. The Senate health committee is scheduled to consider approval Thursday.
Assemblyman Erik Peterson, R-Warren/Hunterdon/Somerset, a member of the Health and Senior Services Committee, said he abstained on the bill because of the cost to water companies to provide the fluoride. He also said he heard too little testimony on the possible health effects of fluoridation.
He said one woman who testified told the panel, “You shouldn’t medicate the water supply.”
“And I thought that was a legitimate point,” he said Monday. “So I wasn’t going to support the bill to come out of committee … .
“And what I thought was, there’s fluoride in toothpaste, there’s fluoride in mouthwashes,” he said. “The question really is … how much of it are you really getting already?”
Hackettstown-area dentist Gary Vander Vliet said New Jersey’s public water supply is poorly fluoridated.
“And (in) areas that do have fluoridation, you see a dramatic decrease in cavities in children,” he said. “And I know there’s a lot of people out there who say fluoride is poison and shouldn’t be added, but fluoride is a naturally occurring element and it’s in a lot of water supplies naturally.”
He said that although many products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, contain fluoride, the element is not ingested.
“Too much of anything is a bad thing,” he said. “It can be toxic, and too much can be harmful to your teeth. … But really when you’re developing, the fluoride is incorporated into the bone and teeth and makes it stronger.”
Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said he doesn’t want industrial-grade fluoride to be used.
“For us, our biggest issue is that under the proposed legislation, you can use industrial-grade fluoride and it can have a lot of other contaminants,” he said.
Warren and Hunterdon county water providers currently do not add fluoride in their systems, according to Department of Environmental Protection documents
Bruce Smith, executive director of the Hackettstown Municipal Utilities Authority, said his authority opposes the push for more fluoride.
“It’s partly a philosophical thing, aside from the fact that’s it’s an additional cost,” he said. “It really makes to me little sense to add fluoride to every drop of water that we put out.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me when there’s so many alternatives. … It just seems it would be cheaper to give away free toothpaste.”
Peterson said that when the measure comes before the Assembly, he will oppose it.
“I’m probably going to vote against the bill on the floor,” he said. “You can self-fluoride your teeth and leave it up to an individual choice on whether the benefits of fluoride outweigh any negative health impact it may have.”