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Monday, October 9, 2000

Hawaii children need
fluoridation of water

Bullet The issue: A survey of 50 years of research on the safety of fluoride in drinking water has found no evidence of harm.

Bullet Our view: The survey confirms that Hawaii's water should be fluoridated.

A proposal by Governor Cayetano to fluoridate Hawaii's water supply was rejected in the state Senate this year. For the sake of Hawaii's children, Cayetano should persist in this battle in the next legislative session.

Hawaii children ages 5-9 have more than twice the national average of tooth decay. The remedy is fluoridation.

Fluoridated water has been used safely in the United States for more than 55 years and is currently used by 145 million Americans.

Fluoridation has been endorsed by many scientific studies. In one of the earliest, a 10-year comparison, beginning in 1945, was made of children in Newburgh, N.Y., where the water was fluoridated, with children in Kingston, N.Y., 35 miles away, where the water was unfluoridated. At the end of the decade, Newburgh children had 58 percent fewer cavities than Kingston children.

A 1994 report by the National Research Council found that more than 50 studies failed to support the hypothesis of an association between exposure to fluoride and increased risk of cancer in humans.

In the latest report, a survey of 50 years of research on fluoridation's safety found no evidence of harm from adding fluoride to drinking water.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, covered 214 studies and was the most comprehensive review ever made of the subject. It was conducted by the National Health Service Center for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York.

The analysis confirmed that fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 15 percent. It also found that long-term exposure to fluoridated water does not increase the risk of osteoporosis (brittleness of bones) among the elderly. The only adverse effect found was mottling of teeth, a cosmetic condition.

A lead researcher, Paul Brown, observed, "There are some very vociferous groups on both sides that have polarized the debate. But we've looked at 50 years of the best research and we've not been able to find any association with any harm."

Opponents of fluoridation dismissed the survey, contended that it ignored some studies showing adverse effects such as osteoporosis. But the overwhelming weight of professional opinion -- including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hawaii Dental Association, Hawaii Medical Association and Hawaii Academy of Pediatrics -- supports fluoridation.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson calls fluoridation the most cost-effective way to reduce tooth decay. Water on Hawaii's military bases, consumed by 13 percent of Hawaii's residents, is fluoridated. The rest of us should drink fluoridated water, too.

Taiwan premier quits

Bullet The issue: Taiwan Premier Tang Fei abruptly resigned his post, citing poor health.

Bullet Our view: The government of President Chen Shui-bian must try harder to win the cooperation of the Nationalists, who control the legislature.

TAIWAN'S first non-Nationalist Party government has had its problems since its election victory last May. The Nationalists, who had ruled the island since 1949, continue to hold a majority in the legislature and have resisted the new administration's proposals. Taiwan now elects its president directly.

The new government of President Chen Shui-bian was shaken last week by the resignation of Premier Tang Fei during a dispute over an administration proposal to scrap a nuclear power plant. The step sent stock prices tumbling.

Tang, a Nationalist and former defense minister, cited poor health as the reason for his decision. He had been selected by Chen for his presumed ability to win the Nationalists' cooperation in the legislature but had little success.

The new premier, Chang Chun-hsiung, urged opposition parties to halt a "war of attrition" that has shaken confidence in Taiwan's government and stock market. Chang, a member of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), made the comment as new cabinet members were sworn in. His appointment gave Chen's party full control of the administration -- but not the legislature.

A few hours after being sworn in, the new cabinet got its first good news: the slumping stock market's main index rose 5.4 percent. Analysts said the market was strengthened by sentiment that the government was becoming more stable.

Chen's party was committed to independence for Taiwan, but since his election he has stepped back from that position and tried to mollify Beijing. But he has also had trouble dealing with the Nationalists.

Taiwan's parliament has been notorious in the last decade for fistfights between lawmakers of the-then opposition DPP and the formerly dominant Nationalist Party over bills proposed by the government. The parties have now switched roles, with the Nationalists blocking the government's programs.

The new premier declared that Taiwan "must abandon the old mentality of confrontation and antagonism." But his call for cooperation may have been wishful thinking.

One Nationalist representative said it was "all empty talk. The DPP doesn't negotiate. It wants to dictate."

Until its politicians learn the art of compromise, democracy Taiwan style will be a turbulent affair. Meanwhile Taiwan's giant neighbor China continues to press the government to recognize its claim to sovereignty over the island. In the face of that pressure, Taiwan's leaders need to strive for unity.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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