EAST BRUNSWICK — The debate in East Brunswick over whether the township should stop adding fluoride to the water system continued, as residents on both sides argued the benefits and health impacts of the process.
At the March 23 Township Council meeting, Miriam Wolin, vice chair of the East Brunswick Water Policy Advisory Committee, responded to comments by Mayor David Stahl that he wants to remove fluoride from the water system, describing it as an outdated practice.
“I’ve heard from a dentist who practices in East Brunswick [who said] that he could see the difference in the teeth of the East Brunswick children who had fluoridated water as compared to the teeth of his patients who came from other towns in which they did not fluoridate the water,” Wolin said.
“He was saying the children from East Brunswick with the water that had fluoride in it had many fewer cavities than the children from outside East Brunswick. … I really, honestly believe that if you stop the fluoridation of our water, you will be worsening the quality of life in East Brunswick, and especially hurting the children.”
East Brunswick began adding fluoride to the water system in the mid-1950s as a way to prevent tooth decay.
Stahl has said that if fluoride is removed from East Brunswick’s water system, a portion of any cost savings from that action would be put into a fund to promote dental health care in the township.
But several residents continue to argue that removing fluoride would do more harm than good to East Brunswick’s residents, with some suggesting that the township hold a public vote on the matter.
“I think it would be fine to arrange a referendum for [residents] to be able to express their opinions,” said resident Sally Flieder. “It’s a very important matter. Please consider it.”
Karen Schneider questioned whether Stahl was only interested in removing the fluoride as a cost-saving measure.
“I think there’s other ways to save money if this is purely a budgetary issue,” Schneider said. “I believe that it will impact, inevitably, the safety of the children of East Brunswick if their fluoridation is removed from our water.”
But some residents support the decision to remove fluoride from the water system.
Resident Dottie Ji said she believes the fluoride in East Brunswick’s water has made her sick.
“I’ve lived in East Brunswick since 2000, and before that I lived in two towns in Middlesex County that did not have fluoridated water,” said Ji. “After I moved to East Brunswick, I developed hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid. [I read a study] which links fluoride and an underactive thyroid.
“I’ve read a lot about this, and I’m convinced that’s contributed to my poor health. I’m just low in energy now. I can’t prove this, but I’ve read enough on fluoride and the kind of fluoride that they put in the water — which is basically hazardous waste — to know that I don’t want it in my water.
“I do have a filter; it doesn’t take out fluoride, and if we continue to have fluoride in the water, I’m going to have to buy a very expensive filter to get it out of my water.”
After the meeting, Ji elaborated on her concerns.
“To me, I don’t see the benefits of having it in the water,” Ji said. “If people want more fluoride, they can get a fluoride pill or something, or get it in other ways. But why should I have this forced on me?”
Contacted March 24, Richard Kahn, a periodontist and East Brunswick resident — who has previously served as president of the New Jersey Dental Association — said that removing fluoride would have damaging effects.
“You have to keep fluoride in there … if you look nationwide, there is a thrust of the educated dental community enlightening elected officials on the value of fluoride,” Kahn said. “We’re starting to see a creep up in childhood tooth decay. Why? Because there are towns starting to do away with fluoride.”
He said that for every dollar spent on public water fluoridation, there is a $38 savings in dental care by the consumer.
“The New Jersey Dental Association has been for fluoridation in the drinking water for forever,” Kahn said. “Think about this — this takes away business from dentists, [yet] we stand for this.”
In another March 24 interview, Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network — an international coalition that opposes fluoride in water systems — said that fluoride has been linked to lower thyroid function, as well as lower IQs, impacts on bones and potential kidney damage.
“We should never have used the public water supply to deliver medicine for human treatment for obvious reasons,” Connett said. “Once you put a medicine in the water, or some factor that’s used to treat human beings, you can’t control the dose, which is serious; you can’t control where it goes, so it goes to people who shouldn’t have fluoride.”
He said that he believes putting fluoride in the water system is a violation of the right of citizens for consent to medication.
“Right now, East Brunswick is doing to everyone in their jurisdiction what an individual doctor in East Brunswick could not do to any individual patient: force them to take a medication,” he said.
“I’m surprised so many doctors stand by and let the dentists run the show. Unfortunately, this fluoridation debate has been run by dentists for so long, as if the only issue in the body is teeth, when in fact we have bones and brains and the intricate system, all of which can be impacted by fluoride.”
He offered to come to East Brunswick in order to debate the topic.
“Hats off to the mayor of East Brunswick … I would be happy to come down and present to the public a full presentation on the science of this issue,” Connett said. “I would personally do it.”