NJ Senate mulls water fluoridation proposal

Legislation sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) that would require fluoride to be added to public water supplies statewide has been approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

Introduced January 17, the New Jersey Public Water Supply Fluoridation Act (S-959) would require all community water systems to be fluoridated within a year of the bill's effective date. It would also require the state commissioner of environmental protection, in consultation with the commissioner of health and senior services, to adopt rules and regulations to determine the means by which the fluoride is controlled, the methods of testing the fluoride content, and the records to be kept in relation to fluoridation.

Communities where the water supply already naturally contains sufficient levels of fluoride would not be required to add additional fluoride to their supply.

"By fluoridating our public water supplies, we can directly improve the dental health of all New Jerseyans in the least expensive and most effective way possible," said Vitale, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, in a press release issued February 9. "Dental decay is an infectious disease and a major health problem that can have lasting effects on our residents and their overall health."

More than 80% of New Jersey residents do not receive fluoridated water, ranking New Jersey 49th of the 50 states in its percentage of population that benefits from fluoride through their public drinking supply, Vitale noted.

According to the New Jersey Dental Association, the state would see an estimated savings of $108 million per year in dental treatments, reducing overall healthcare costs for both insured and uninsured New Jerseyans. Operating costs for adding fluoride into a water system is estimated between 50¢ to $3 per person per year, in comparison with the estimated cost to fill a cavity-stricken tooth, which is just more than $101.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee with a vote of 7-1-2. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations for further review.

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