Mayor calls fluoride ‘mass medication of people’

For nearly 60 years, the tap water in this township has been treated with fluoride, a tooth cavity-fighting mineral.

But the fluoride will run dry this spring after Mayor David Stahl came out against it, adopting the vocabulary of anti-fluoride activists by calling fluoridation a “mass medication of the public.”

The township’s position against fluoride is not one shared by the nation’s major medical associations and the World Health Organization. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls water fluoridation “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

Stahl’s position also it at odds with the township’s own Water Policy Advisory Committee, which voted 6-1 just days after Stahl’s anti-fluoride speech to recommend the continuation of fluoridation here.

Meanwhile, another Middlesex County elected official — state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-19th District — is sponsoring legislation that would require all water utilities in the state to add fluoride to drinking water.

All ground and surface water contains naturally occurring fluoride, which helps children develop strong tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. When natural levels of fluoride are too low (the CDC recommends 0.7 parts per million of water), some water authorities and utilities add fluoride to water. Fluoride also is added to many toothpastes and mouthwashes.

But fluoridation has been controversial as nearly as long as it’s been in practice. Too much fluoride can be dangerous and is known to cause tooth discoloration.

Groups such as the Fluoride Action Network, which applauds Stahl’s position, say even the low amounts in drinking water can lead to arthritis, bone ailments and other diseases.

Fluoride also is the subject of some anti-government conspiracy theories, including the debunked claim the Nazis used fluoride against Jews.

But a larger number of professional and health groups support fluoridation. Among them: the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Kidney Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the American Water Works Association and the National Association of City and County Health Officials.

“They aren’t dummies these people,” said Miriam Wolin, vice chairman of the township Water Policy Advisory Committee, who opposes Stahl’s decision to end fluoridation. Wolin says that the decision should be left to township voters because the fluoridation was approved by a referendum in the 1950s.

Stahl did not return several calls for comment Monday, but laid out his opposition to the chemical in a Feb. 2 state of the township address.

“The township will end its mass medication of the public by ending the use of fluoride in the water system,” he said. “I’ve read much data on the pros and cons of putting fluoride in our water system. When fluoride was first introduced it was not easy for individuals to get it any other way. Today there are many other options. In addition, so many people are choosing to drink bottled water rather than tap. I just believe it’s the time to end this.”

Council President Michael Hughes, who like the mayor is a Republican, says he remains “open minded” about the issue and that if residents come out in support of fluoride the township could renew the supply.

It costs the township about $70,000 a year to fluoridate the water, Hughes said, and many people in town drink bottled water or filter their taps, which removes the fluoride.

“I haven’t done the digging into the research. I don’t have a strong opinion on it either way,” he said. “I came to it from a dollars-and-sense perspective.”

The township is one of the few in Middlesex County that do fluoridate the water supply. South Brunswick’s utility adds the chemical while New Jersey American Water adds it to the taps of its Kingston, Cranbury and Plainsboro customers.

More than 80 percent of New Jersey residents do not have access to fluoridated water, according to the New Jersey Dental Association.

“New Jersey American Water is neutral on the issue of fluoridation of drinking water supplies,” the company says on its website. “We consider the fluoridation of drinking water supplies to be a community-based decision. This means that any system in which we currently fluoridate, the decision to initiate fluoridation was not made by the company.”

Water systems with fluoride

County Water System
Atlantic Atlantic City
Atlantic Egg Harbor
Burlington McGuire Air Force Base
Willingboro MUA
Mt. Laurel MUA
U.S. Army Fort Dix
Aqua New Jersey – Hamilton Square
Gloucester Washington MUA
Hunterdon NJ American
Mercer East Windsor MUA
Aqua New Jersey – Hamilton Square
Trenton Water Works
NJ American-Raritan
Middlesex East Brunswick
South Brunswick
NJ American
Monmouth Allentown
Freehold Borough
Freehold Township
S B Water
NJ American-Coastal North
Morris NJ American-Raritan
Somerset NJ American-Raritan
Sussex Newtown Water & Sewer Authority
Union United Water Rahway

New Jersey American towns that get fluoride

A partial list

  • Branchburg Township (including Neshanic Station)
  • Parts of Bridgewater (Bradley Gardens, Finderne, Green Knoll)
  • Cranbury (only sections served by New Jersey American Water)
  • Hillsborough Township (including Belle Mead)
  • Kingston
  • Lawrence Township
  • Manville
  • Millstone
  • Montgomery (including Skillman)
  • Peapack-Gladstone
  • Plainsboro (only section served by New Jersey American Water)
  • Princeton Borough
  • Princeton Township
  • Raritan Borough
  • Raritan Township (except Maple Glen)
  • Readington
  • Somerville
  • West Windsor