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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 10, 2002

Fluoride wording deleted from bill

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Yesterday, the state House Committee on Health got an earful from folks who weren't about to swallow the Department of Health's fluoridation claims.

In an often tumultuous hearing that lasted more than six hours, the panel heard citizens voice their disapproval of House Bill 2761, which related to community oral health and included the phrase: "Requires fluoridation of public water systems."

Committee Chairman Dennis Arakaki, D-28th (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights), who attempted at the outset to conduct an orderly discussion of Hawai'i's dental health needs, finally announced he would recommend that any mention of the word "fluoridation" be stricken from the bill.

With that change, the committee approved the bill — but not before Rep. William Stonebraker, R-15th (Kalama Valley, Portlock), scolded the Department of Health for not responding to public concerns about fluoridation and warned that the agency will get no support from him until "it gets its act together."

To be sure, there were those who spoke in favor of fluoridation.

"I find it shameful that the residents and especially the children of our state continue to suffer from a policy that does not support fluoridation," said Chuck Larson, executive director of Seagull Schools.

But they were outnumbered by fluoridation foes who came armed with placards, petitions, surveys, studies and, in one case, a yards-long list of metropolitan areas that have washed their hands of their own water fluoridation systems and apparently aren't a bit sorry.

Mostly, they expressed consternation at having to address the issue again, having gone through a similar exercise last year.

"Why are we back here again?" demanded Bobby McClintock, representing a group of people who are fluoride-sensitive.

"I'm sure you're tired of hearing us say don't put it in the water," Helen Phillips told the panel. "But we're tired of saying it."

By the time the meeting ended before 4 p.m., civility had returned to the auditorium and people were lining up to thank Arakaki for dropping the "fluoride" from the bill.

Correction: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed fluoridation of community drinking water. An earlier version of this story contained other information.