Lanai drinking water
will not be fluoridated

State health officials backed the idea,
but Lanai Water Co. says residents opposed it

By Gary T. Kubota
January 12, 2002

WAILUKU, Lanai Water Co. has decided against fluoridating the island's drinking water supply, despite encouragement otherwise from state health officials.

Company President Vince Bagoyo said the residents do not support fluoridation.

"It's always been our decision that the residents should make that decision, and for Lanai there's no fluoridation," said Bagoyo, also vice president of Castle & Cooke.

Bagoyo said last August that the company supported the project based on a community meeting on Lanai, where citizens and health professionals listed fluoridation as a priority.

But since then the proposal to fluoridate Lanai's drinking water has been under attack by some groups and individuals in Maui County. They say fluoridation has been associated with illnesses such as osteoporosis and cancer, and if people want to add fluoride to their diet, they should do it as individuals.

The decision by Lanai Water Co. comes when the Maui County Council is considering a bill that would ban fluoridation in private water systems.

Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson said she introduced the measure to give the people a choice in what they want in their water.

Johnson said there is evidence that fluoride in the diet may increase the risk of medical complications for children, the elderly and those with cardiovascular, kidney and other chronic disorders.

She said she is also worried about the health effect of excessive fluoridation in children.

"I always err on the side of caution," she said. "I think people should have the right to choose what they want in their water. ... We should not be forcing it upon individuals."

Several Maui residents testified in favor of the bill.

But Dr. Mark Greer, chief of the state Dental Health Division, said fluoridation is taking place in virtually all major cities and that there was nothing to prove claims that it causes health problems.

"We've heard all the claims against fluoridation," he said. "There is nothing to substantiate a downside in fluoridation."

Greer, who had planned to fluoridate Lanai's drinking water by this spring, said the division still believes it is a good idea and wants to continue talks with the community.

State health officials say statistics for school year 1999 showed Lanai had the highest rate of tooth decay in children ages 5 to 9 among the Hawaiian Islands and more than three times the rate of children on Hawaii military bases where there has been fluoridation since the 1950s.

Greer said fluoridation would be good for Lanai.

"This is what it's about: reducing disease and reducing the cost of health care," he said.

Johnson's bill, along with a resolution asking the Maui Board of Water Supply to prohibit fluoridation, has been referred to the Council's Public Works and Transportation Committee.

 

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin