For all its renown as an engine of pharmaceutical and biotechnology progress, New Jersey has long lagged in what public health officials call one of the 10 biggest health advances of the last century: fluoridating its water.
While 72 percent of Americans get their water from public systems that add fluoride, just 14 percent of New Jersey residents do, placing the state next to last, ahead of only Hawaii, and far behind nearby New York (72 percent), Pennsylvania (54 percent) and Connecticut (90 percent).
A bill in the Legislature would change that, requiring all public water systems in New Jersey to add fluoride to the supply. But while the proposal has won support from a host of medical groups, it has proved unusually politically charged.
Similar bills have failed in the state since 2005, under pressure from the public utilities lobby and municipalities that argue that fluoridation costs too much, environmentalists who say it pollutes the water supply, and antifluoride activists who argue that it causes cancer, lowers I.Q. and amounts to government-forced medicine.
That’s a public choice situation!