Why Public Water Fluoridation
is Needed in New Jersey
According to former US Surgeon General David Satcher, tooth decay is the #1 chronic childhood disease in America. Dental cavities are five times more likely to be found in children than asthma. Unlike asthma, however, tooth decay is largely a preventable disease regardless of where you live, how much money you or your family makes or your access to health care by simply drinking fluoridated water at the recommended therapeutic levels of .7 parts per million.
Fluoride is the same ingredient found in most toothpaste. It's the same product dentists apply to your teeth when you get a cleaning. It's the same substance pediatricians and dentists recommend for children. It's the same substance that appears naturally in many rivers, private drinking wells, and water aquifers. And it is the same substance that, when added to drinking water, is considered one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In fact, the CDC believes so strongly in water fluoridation that it is promoting its benefits to local governments across the country and encouraging them to fluoridate the local public water supply. The CDC's intention is to achieve at least 80 percent water fluoridation of the nation's public water supply by 2020. It has regularly studied the issue since the early 1940s, and time after time concluded that it is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay.
Today, 72 percent of Americans with access to public water drink fluoridated water at the CDC's recommended therapeutic level. Many doctors and scientific experts believe that fluoridating the public water supply is as important as receiving a vaccination.
The CDC isn't the only group who vigorously supports and advocates for water fluoridation. At present, more than 100 nationally known organizations including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Kidney Foundation, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the American Water Works Association, the National Association of City and County Health Officials, as well as the last four US Surgeons General endorse and/or recognize the benefits of water fluoridation.
With all of this overwhelming support for water fluoridation, and the fact that New Jersey is typically a leader on healthcare-related issues, one would expect New Jersey to be leading the charge on this important health care subject. Sadly, we are not.
Currently, New Jersey ranks 49th out of 50 states in its percentage of population that drinks fluoridated public water at the CDC's recommended therapeutic level of .7 part per million. As of February 2012, 86 percent (7.1 million New Jerseyans) do not receive fluoridated water from the public drinking supplies. Equally as shocking, most of New Jersey's largest cities, including Camden, Newark, Jersey City and Paterson, do not fluoridate their water at the recommended levels. This disproportionately affects the poorest populations in New Jersey who already are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to access to quality healthcare.
Nearly every state in America provides more fluoridated water to its citizens than New Jersey. In thirteen states and the District of Columbia, at least 90 percent of the residents drink fluoridated water. What's more, eleven states have mandated water fluoridation. And, forty-six of the 50 largest cities in the US provide fluoridated water to their residents—some for nearly more than 60 years. More than 60 countries also fluoridate their public water. This benefits more than a quarter of a billion people worldwide.
Study after study has concluded that water fluoridation at the recommended levels is safe and effective. Towns, counties and states with water fluoridation initiatives have seen dramatic decreases in the number of cavities reported.
Imagine this: by adding just .7 parts per million fluoride to the public drinking supply, cavities can be significantly reduced. That's all it takes to help New Jerseyans keep their teeth for a lifetime.
By extrapolating from the CDC's estimates, fluoridating New Jersey's public water supply would net an estimated savings of $108 million annually, or more than $2 million per week, in dental treatment costs. For every $1 invested into community water fluoridation, approximately $38 is saved on dental treatment costs.
On January 25, 2012, America celebrated the 67th anniversary of its first water fluoridation initiative. The New York Times published an article haling the merits of public water fluoridation. And now, New Jersey's political leaders will have the opportunity to finally fluoridate the water supply in our state by encouraging the New Jersey Public Health Council to recommend it to the governor. It's time that New Jersey follows the lead of practically every other state in this country and act to fluoridate the water supply. The health of New Jersey depends on it.