Spotlight turns to Maui County in fluoride battle
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui With fluoridation of drinking water a hot issue on Lana'i and Moloka'i in recent months, a member of the Maui County Council hopes to settle the issue and circumvent further debate.
Jo Anne Johnson is proposing a ban on fluoridation in private water systems used for public purposes. In addition, she's offering a resolution urging the Board of Water Supply to adopt a proposed amendment to the board's rules that would prohibit the fluoridation of county water.
The council is expected to send the measures to one of its committees tomorrow.
If the bill prohibiting fluoridation in private water systems is adopted, it could sink a plan to make Lana'i the first nonmilitary community in the state to have its drinking water fluoridated.
The state Health Department is planning to provide $100,000 worth of equipment and chemicals to the privately owned Lana'i Water Co. from the state's tobacco settlement fund. The goal is to have the system running sometime this year.
While Johnson said her bill isn't specifically aimed at Lana'i, she believes that the people there and those on Moloka'i and Maui should not have fluoride forced on them.
Johnson said there is conflicting evidence whether fluoride significantly reduces tooth decay. What's more, she said, there's evidence that fluoride may increase the risk of medical complications for children, the elderly and people with cardiovascular, kidney and other chronic disorders.
Johnson said people already have the right to add fluoride to their diets.
"I think it's communistic and bureaucratic to medicate everybody,'' she said. "I don't think government or any entity should usurp individual rights.''
But Dr. Mark Greer, chief of the state Dental Health Division, said it would be unfortunate if the council took such a "regressive'' position on fluoridation, considering the scientific evidence supporting it and the overwhelming backing of public health professionals.
"Unfortunately, this has been allowed to be politicized,'' Greer said. "But this isn't about building a new road. It's a public health measure. I would hope that they turn to the professional community at this time.''
He said all of the water supplies of the nation's top 50 cities are fluoridated except two: Portland, Ore., and Honolulu.
"We're behind the rest of the country,'' he said.
On Moloka'i, a coalition of dental health professionals wanted the state to fluoridate the island's water supply last year, but the county Board of Water Supply turned the proposal down.
Keiki Caucus leader Rep. Dennis Arakaki, D-28th (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley), said a bill will be proposed this legislative session calling for fluoridating Hawai'i's drinking water.