Fluoride proposal draws opposition | The Garden Island
LIHUE – Legislators pushing a proposal to add fluoride to Hawaii’s public water systems say it would promote better dental health, but some on Kauai have concerns about the costs and effects of fluoridating the water.
Legislation would require major public water companies to fluorinate drinking water in Hawaii, and the Department of Health would have to reimburse water companies for the initial costs and provide training and technical support to suppliers.
None of the Hawaiian counties fluoridates their water, and Honolulu County banned the practice in 2004. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoride has been in some states’ drinking water for 70 years.
Drinking fluoridated water reduces cavities in children and adults by about 25 percent, according to the CDC, and indicates the practice is recommended by the American Dental Association.
State Senator Karl Rhoads proposed the legislation, saying fluoridation of the water is a safe and inexpensive way to improve Hawaii’s dental health.
Other legislators disagree.
“It is so important to maintain fluoride for dental health, but the cost of fluoridating water is enormous. Topical fluorides like toothpaste are a better option for me, ”said Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa.
She suggested supporting better access to children’s dental health and visiting regular dentist visits to improve oral health.
“Too much water is used for other purposes, especially on the neighboring islands, and fluoridation would be wasted,” she said.
When Malina Briakadasha, a single Kauai mother of five, heard about the proposed legislation, she became concerned and immediately called Rhoads’ office to find out how to comment on the matter.
She fears that fluoride in the water could harm her family’s health. She strives for a healthy life and does not opt for fluoride, but also rejects the overall concept of state-prescribed water fluoridation.
“I think whether or not you drink fluoridated water is a personal choice and I am offended that the government wants to make that decision for me,” Briakadasha said. “Our water is pretty pure, we have chlorine, but that adds something completely unnecessary.”
Jennifer Edmonds, another mother from Kauai, said she and her family are going through fluoride treatments at the dentist every six months and she doesn’t think it’s necessary to add them to drinking water.
“There’s no need for it to go all through your body, it just has to be on your teeth,” Edmonds said. “So far, my two children are void-free.”
According to the CDC’s latest 2016 Community Fluoridation Reports, updated in 2016, approximately 65 percent of the US population gets their water from fluoridated systems.
Across the country, most states have fluoridation systems in city water, but there are communities that do not allow this. Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, banned fluoridated water until June when the board of directors approved additional fluoridation of the city’s water supply.
According to the CDC, District of Columbia and Kentucky lead the nation with nearly 100 percent of their population in fluoridated water systems. It is followed by Illinois and Minnesota with 98 percent, Georgia with 96 percent and North Dakota with 92 percent.
Some of the states with the lowest percentage of their population in fluoridated water systems are New Jersey at 14 percent, Oregon at 22 percent, Idaho at 31 percent, and Utah at 51 percent.
Hawaii had more dentists per capita than any other state except Massachusetts, according to a 2014 report, but kids here have one of the worst rates of tooth decay in the country.
One of the reasons for this is that Hawaii’s water supplies are only fluoridated on military bases.
In 2014, the Pew Center Hawaii awarded it an F grade in its most recent report on How Well the State Is Protecting Children From Tooth decay. It’s the same grade Hawaii has received for the past two years.