THE ISSUE: Legislators are rejecting a bill to create a pilot program to fluoridate water in Maui County.
Intimidated by a resilient band of chemophobes, legislators again are thumbing their noses at ending Hawaii’s distinctions of being the only state without fluoridated water and having the worst oral health in the country. In the latest round of craziness, a recommendation by a health task force to begin fluoridating water in Maui County received absolutely no support in the Senate Health Committee. The health community should not give up.
“Fluoridation has been shown to be the most effective and least expensive method to decrease dental decay,” the Legislature-created Maui Health Initiative Task Force reported. It recommended that “sound public policy” requires fluoridation of all Maui public water supplies, “where practicable.”
The task force is in good company. Fluoridation has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association and their Hawaii chapters, and every recent surgeon general. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes fluoridation among the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century.
Three dozen people signed a brief statement opposing the Maui bill, saying they want to continue to “prohibit the introduction of (an) unnecessary chemical” into the Molokai, Maui and Lanai drinking water systems.
Fluoride is naturally present in all ground water in amounts ranging up to 0.4 parts per million. The Maui bill would increase those amounts to a whopping 0.7 parts per million, equivalent in length to one inch in 20.8 miles, in time to one minute in 2.6 years and in money to one penny in $13,000, notes the bill’s preface.
It points out that more than 170 million Americans — about 65 percent of the population — drink fluoridated water. In recent years, two counties in Utah, including Salt Lake County, began drinking fluoridated water, leaving Hawaii the lone state without fluoridation.
Extremists who used to claim that fluoridation was a communist plot now suggest it carries risks of cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid problems, Down Syndrome, reduction of fertility and, most recently, brain damage. All have been discredited, according to the ADA.
Another bill, sponsored by House Health Chairman Josh Green, a Big Island physician, would establish a statewide water fluoridation pilot program to be administered by the state Department of Health. It was held over from last year’s session and has received the same lack of consideration this year.
Legislators have been derelict in allowing Hawaii’s children to suffer from the rates of tooth decay that nearly double the national average and are dramatically higher than those of children at military-base schools, whose water is fluoridated. What Green calls “Hawaii’s silent epidemic” should receive the treatment is deserves.