BY ROBERT P. MADER Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris in mid-February finalized enactment of a water quality ordinance that bans additives in water, including fluoride. The ordinance affects the city and county of Honolulu and island of Oahu but not federally owned water systems such as military installations.
The law combines the intent and language of ordinances enacted by citizens initiatives in Santa Cruz, Redding, and Watsonville, Calif. The new Honolulu ordinance addresses additives such as fluoride on two fronts: first, prohibiting the addition of any chemical to the drinking water intended to treat humans rather than the water; and secondly, establishing expanded and localized criteria for limiting contaminants and ensuring U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for any health claims made for any specific products to be used. The latter is intended to further protect consumers should Hawaiian or federal law supercede and impose mass medication.
Bill 66 (2003) was passed Jan. 28 by a 7-2 vote of the Council of the City and County of Honolulu.
The law reads, in part: “Drinking water should not be used as a means for delivery of chemicals for medical or dental purposes when other alternatives are available. The purpose of this ordinance is to prohibit the introduction of unnecessary chemical additives, considered to be medication, into Oahu’s drinking water supply.
“Using the drinking water system for delivery of chemical additives for medication purpose is neither cost effective nor environmentally sound since more than 99% of the chemicals are not ingested and will be discharged into the environment when washing cars, watering yards, flushing toilets, etc., thereby wasting tax dollars.
If state or federal law overrides the ordinance, the law contains requirements that additives: be pharmaceutical grade, not industrial grade; be approved by the FDA; not contain other contaminants; and not increase the corrosiveness of the water that would degrade pipes. The law also states that the additive cannot contain any contaminants exceeding maximum levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, which opposes mass fluoridation, pushed for enactment of the ordinance. Jeff Green, the head of the advocacy group, said that fluoride additives are often contaminated and little data exist about the chemicals.
Only about 9% of water utilities use sodium fluoride, Green said. The rest add hydrofluosilicic acid or sodium silicofluoride, byproducts of production of potash fertilizer. The chemicals frequently are contaminated with lead and arsenic, he said.
Green said that when he began researching fluoridation in the mid-1990s, one could call the FDA and the EPA and get completely different answers because of the lack of data. Neither agency claimed responsibility for regulating fluoride.
Green said he persuaded U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, to initiate a congressional investigation in 1998. The committee received responses from the FDA and EPA.
“Fluoride, when used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in man or animal, is a drug that is subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation,” the FDA stated.
In the same response, the FDA ends its first paragraph with, “As you know, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates fluoride in the water supply.”
Although EPA establishes maximum contaminant levels for toxic substances found in source water, in a 1998 letter EPA refutes the FDA assertion that EPA regulates fluoride added as a prevention of disease by stating, “In the United States, there are no federal safety standards which are applicable to drinking water additives, including those intended for use in fluoridating water.”
Green said he discovered that EPA gave up its oversight of additives in water in 1988. In addition, ANSI/NSF Standard 60, which covers additives and their purity, is not enforced by anyone, and fluoride additives are self-regulated by the industry, he said.