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My Turn

By Blaine Fergerstrom

Saturday, October 14, 2000

I can take care
of myself, thank you

SOMETHING bugged me about an Oct. 9 Star-Bulletin editorial supporting the fluoridation of the water system in Hawaii, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. It nagged at me all morning like one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and won't go away.

The editorial agreed with Governor Cayetano's proposal that we join a number of other states in adding sodium fluoride to our water system.

The move is heavily backed by a number of dental and medical health concerns. Hundreds of studies from around the globe seem to prove that there is no harm in adding this chemical compound to our drinking water supply. Indeed, it is reported to reduce decay in our children's teeth by 15 percent.

Wow! Fifteen percent? As a parent of a young child, how could I argue with that? I want what's best for my son. I am a very concerned, involved parent. The wife and I were in a near-panic when our kid refused to sit for the family dentist. We were relieved to find another dentist, whom my son took to happily.

The dentist even prescribed fluoride pills, which my boy sometimes happily chews each morning with his breakfast. So far, so good: He's had good check-ups.

So why did this idea of adding fluoride to the municipal water supply continue to bug me so much?

Suddenly came the realization: What I don't like about this plan is that this chemical is being added to the water system for convenience's sake. It's been mentioned that this is the easiest, most "cost-effective" means of administering the prescribed treatment.

So let's examine this logic: Government officials cannot force my son to brush his teeth twice daily, to floss, to visit a dentist twice a year and to take his prescribed fluoride pills. They cannot control his personal behavior and -- because they believe I may be derelict as a responsible parent -- they are FORCING him to ingest the chemical for his own good. Gee, thanks a lot.

Let's take this scenario a step further.

For years I've been watching with amusement the medical community's flip-flopping endorsement of various remedies for heart ailments. It warns me to exercise regularly, eat a balanced, healthy diet and to see my doctor routinely.

It has been recommending that those susceptible should take an aspirin daily. It also suggests that a beer or two every day, and even a nightly glass of red wine, couldn't hurt and might even lessen the likelihood of heart attack.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in our state. Far more people die from heart disease than from tooth decay.

THEREFORE, should we investigate the possibility of adding a few of kegs of beer and a case of aspirin to the water system? How much could it hurt? You'd have to drink gallons of the stuff to feel the effects of the alcohol, but everyone would get their prescribed dose. Hey, what else can we could stick in the water for everyone's own good?

I'm joking, of course. I'm merely trying to make the point that we should think long and hard before deciding that it is OK to add anything to the water supply. Will fluoride be the first of a whole slew of stuff we start putting in there because Big Brother has deigned it to be "good for us"?

At what point does it become OUR responsibility to care for our own personal well-being and not to rely on government to do it for us?

Blaine Fergerstrom is
webmaster of

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