EAST BRUNSWICK–At the beginning of March, Councilman Michael Spadafino spearheaded a discussion to potentially remove fluoride from the municipality’s water system.
“This has been kicked around for over six years in and out of the purview of discussions at the council meetings. So I think it’s very important that we make some decisions regarding this, and stop kicking this down the road,” Spadafino said. “First of all … fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, especially baby teeth and adult teeth, and that’s why they’re given fluoride drops and fluoride treatments at early ages; then they started adding fluoride to drinking water.”
At the same time, Spadafino said during the March 8 council meeting that in the early 1950s, toothpaste became big advertising, encouraging better dental hygiene. Studies from the American Dental Association (ADA) indicate that the primary benefit of fluoride is by application, not ingestion.
Pointing out the lack of fluoride dosage regulations to the minimal health benefits, Spafadino also spoke about how if the township stops placing fluoride in the water system it could save the township money.
Spadafino said the township spends about $50,000 a year on fluoridation of the public water supply.
“If this practice was continued in 2017 that would have been about $200,000, which is a tax point that could have bought several vehicles, would have made some repairs in town, and could have been put to better use,” Spadafino said. “A small amount of money allocated towards fluoridating bottled water for residents recognizes the risks associated with consuming fluoridated water. It could be purchased or distributed at a location, designated by the township.”
Removing fluoride from the township’s water system, Spadafino said, actually was a concept suggested by former Mayor David Stahl in his 2015 township address, where he recommended that the township eliminate the use of fluoridation in its water supply.
“The situation has been kicked down the road long enough. It’s time to take action. I am requesting a resolution to remove fluoride responsive support,” Spadafino said.
Council President Sharon Sullivan suggested that the council schedule a meeting where experts who are pro-fluoridation and against the continuation of fluoride in water can speak.
Councilman James Wendell said he has been sitting on this issue for many years and has always been the guy who said he doesn’t know enough about this and that he is not a health professional.
“We have two boards in town, our Water Policy Advisory Committee and our Health Advisory Committee that are both tasked with … reporting back to us on this, and this has been brought up many times over the past several years,” Wendell said. “I always ask that we get their advice and to help the council, and have the Water Policy Advisory Board to weigh in on this. Both [committees] weighed in favor of removing this and maybe we should have a representative from each one of those boards come and speak in regard to this.”
Wendell said he has heard a lot of people speak on both sides of this issue for many years and thinks it’s time to make a decision.
Councilman Dinesh Behal said he agreed that a meeting should be scheduled that will have experts from both sides of this debate, as well as representatives from the township’s Water Policy and Health advisory committees.
“My first comment is, I am not in favor of a referendum; as Wendell said, there’s a lot of research to be done and the voters who elected us expect us to do the research, and they have faith in us as we do our research out of precedent. I commend you for the idea of bringing to the council chambers representatives from both sides of the issue and then opening it up for the township residents to comment, and I think we’re gonna get a lively lively discussion,” he said.
Having been on the Water Policy Adivosry Committee for two years, Councilman Kevin McEvoy said he has found that no matter what organization or group, there seems to be a 50/50 split on the pros and the cons with regard to fluoride.
“In particular, water advisory, which I am on, for the two years that I have been on it, the group has been split and that’s why we have not issued a formal document to the council, or the mayor, because of the split,” McEvoy said.
Overall, McEvoy supported the idea of having a meeting and requested enough time before that meeting to do more research to further learn about this issue.
Mayor Brad Cohen said either way he has no opinion regarding this issue, but suggested that if the council is going to have somebody from any one of the these committees, that they ought to have people from them speak on either side of that issue.
“Three years ago or four years ago when the Health Advisory Council issued that opinion, it did not have a dentist, a pediatrician …[or] pharmacist who were all on that committee. I think if you had asked the committee to vote again or to discuss that, again, it wouldn’t be 3 to 1, I think it would be closer to 50/50 like you have on the Water Policy Advisory Committee.”
Cohen said if the council really does want to get a fair and honest opinion on both sides of the issue, then people ought to be very careful on who from those committees will speak.
The council agreed to hold a special meeting scheduled for the first week of May where experts and committee members will be given an opportunity to voice their stance on this issue.
For more information, visit www.eastbrunswick.org/AgendaCenter/Township-Council-3.
Contact Vashti Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.