State health officials yesterday renewed their call for adding fluoride to Hawaii’s drinking water to help prevent tooth decay, but opponents promised a strong fight against it this session.
In his State of the State address Monday, Gov. Ben Cayetano said Hawaii’s water needs to be fluoridated, saying every dollar spent on fluoridating saves $80 in future dental expenses.
Yesterday, state Health Department Director Bruce Anderson said the administration is asking the Legislature to approve using $12.5 million in tobacco settlement money over three years starting in 2002 to pay for the counties to establish and maintain fluoridation treatment systems.
Anderson said the average number of decayed teeth per child ages 5 to 9 in Hawaii is 3.9; the national average is 1.9.
He said major cities that fluoridate water include San Francisco, Washington, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. Anderson added that there haven’t been any credible studies over the past 50 years that show fluoridation causes adverse health effects.
But Greg Norby of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water said research shows fluoridation is linked to major health problems ranging from cancer to central nervous system damage to increased hip fractures.
He said there are other alternatives to fluoridating the water.
“If you want the fluoride, you can get it on your own — at your dentist, in toothpaste,” he said.
Anderson said fluoridating water benefits everyone, regardless of income or other social variables. He said more than 100 health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, support fluoridation.
A public briefing on fluoridation will take place at 1:30 p.m. today at the Capitol auditorium.
The Legislature last considered fluoridation in 1987, when a House panel killed a Senate bill, saying there wasn’t enough public education on the issue.