Kathy Suzuki-Kitagawa, of the Hawaii Primary Care Association, testified yesterday at a Honolulu City Council hearing on fluoridating Oahu's public water supply.

Council votes to
ban fluoride in
public water supply

Fluoride and other chemical additives would be banned from Oahu's public water supply under a bill approved yesterday by the City Council.

The Council voted 7-2 to prohibit adding to the water supply "any product, substance or chemical ... for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body or any person."

The ban does not affect military water systems, which are fluoridated, and it does not apply to water treatment chemicals such as chlorine that are used to make water potable.

The bill now goes to Mayor Jeremy Harris. A spokeswoman for Harris did not know the mayor's position on the measure.

The debate over whether to fluoridate Hawaii's drinking water has raged for decades.

Supporters of the fluoridation-ban bill outnumbered opponents 5-to-1 yesterday. More than two dozen people testified.

Fluoridation proponents argued that fluoride is needed in water to battle high rates of tooth decay especially among children.

The main opposition to the fluoride ban came from insurers such as the Hawaii Medical Service Association and Hawaii Dental Association.

"If this bill passes, it has the potential to do more harm than good," said Donna Ikeda, who represented HDA.

Stacy Evensen, of HMSA, said opposition to the ban came at the tail end of the City Council approval process because the fluoridation fight is normally at the Legislature, and opponents did not know about the measure.

"Many of us only heard about this bill within the last week or so," Evensen said. "We were not looking for this at City Council."

But those who want fluoride banned from the water say that people should not be forced to ingest fluoride, because there are other ways to battle tooth decay.

"The fluoridated toothpaste and the dentist treatment is sufficient. I implore you, do not allow your water to be contaminated with any chemicals," said Honolulu resident Doris Dalldorf.

Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms, said that he is worried about the effect fluoride would have on crops.

"They're poisonous to plants. It would eventually affect the growth of any vegetables." Okimoto said. "You're going to ask farmers to basically pay for fluoridating the water and also pay for taking it out."

Roger Fujioka, of the University of Hawaii Water Resources Research Center, said that what he has read shows both benefits and drawbacks of fluoridation.

"Public water shouldn't be used as a mechanism unless it's for public health in which everyone benefits and not a small percentage of the population," he said.

Councilman Gary Okino said Hawaii residents are proud of their water.

"I want to drink pure water," he said. "I don't want chemicals in there that has some doubt as to what kind of bad effects that might have or not."

Councilman Charles Djou, who joined Councilman Nestor Garcia in voting "no," said he also had concerns about fluoride, but there was not a compelling reason to move the bill forward.

"There's no proposal to currently fluoridate our water," he said.


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