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Thursday, Sept. 26, 2002


Oral hygiene, oral history and aural pollution

Flouride in Japan

The queries we get! About looking after our teeth, for example. Nancy Ridenour, who lives in Gifu, recalls being told a decade ago by a Colgate rep that fluoride is not introduced into Japanese toothpaste, nor is it legal in water here. As a result, she's been bringing in supplies of fluoride toothpaste from the States all these years.

"Is there any way to get a definitive answer," she asks.

Dr Kazunori Shioya, who is chairman of his local dentist's association in Tsurumi, near Yokohama, says the Colgate rep was right about fluoride in Japanese toothpaste at that time. But now the law has changed and fluoride -- as a compound of fluorine, known as husso -- is used in products.

But "too much flouride is a problem," Dr Shioya says. "Over-dosing can lead to bone deformation. But if used properly, it definitely makes teeth stronger. You only have to look at data from Northern Europe to see the benefit." Children's teeth in Scandinavia rate 1. In Japan, the rating is 4.

Also, adding fluoride to water supplies means that users have no choice, which can be considered undemocratic.

While Nancy is obviously a fan of fluoride, there is quite a strong anti movement, especially in her own country. Anyone interested in knowing more about the considered downsides of fluoride might like to contact Global Alliance Against Fluoridation, PO Box 20832, Park West Station, New York, NY1025-1516 (Phone: 212-665-1516).

Eye on the past

In suggesting an unusual Christmas present or souvenir, Mary Corbett helps Lifelines connect us to the past as well as the present and future.

The Rev. John Berg, who first came to Yokohama in 1966 (and for good in '68) to serve The Mission to Seafarers near Yamashita Park, and also Christ Church, up on the Bluff, has produced a CD of stories about the city's history interspersed with music. The title? "Sagacious and Deceitful," which was the view both cultures had of one another in the early days of foreign settlement.

The music consists of sea shanties and excerpts from Gilbert &Sullivan's operetta, "The Mikado" (a satire on the British government set in Japan, with many of the songs based on actual events in Meiji period ports).

A second CD compilation, "Ships of the Strangers," will be available from next month, also priced at 2,500 yen.

John has amassed some fascinating knowledge over the years.

Did you know, for example, that the steamship Empress of Australia was leaving Yokohama Bay during a typhoon when the Kanto earthquake of Sept. 1, 1923 struck?

The captain, standing on the bridge, saw a 2-meter-high "tsunami" of not water, but land and buildings, ripple around the bay. He then saw all the European-style brick-built buildings that were, in their heyday, as fine as anything on Shanghai's Bund, collapse one by one.

All proceeds of the CD sales go to Yokohama Christ Church.

To buy or order the CDs, phone 045-641 6684, or E-mail: johnberg@gol.com


Brian -- a film buff in Tokyo -- says that the level of soundtracks in Japanese cinemas is driving him nuts. "Is it just me, or is someone turning up the volume?" he queries.

Brian doesn't say how old he is. But many people find that as they grow older, they become less tolerant of noise levels (and a lot of other things too).

Film critic Don Morton says he has noticed that sound levels have risen in recent years, even in screening rooms.

Greg Starr, editor of the Japanese film magazine Premiere, can remember having to rely on subtitles because soundtracks were sometimes so quiet. "Now sound is almost too good," he says.

He thinks several factors may be cranking up volume levels, and that it's a global phenomenon.

Film track technology is so much more sensitive. The tiniest crack of a twig, or rustle of a leaf is picked up, to be then magnified by increasingly complex sound systems in movie houses.

Anyone out there with opinions and ideas? Anyone asked to have the volume turned down and lived to tell the tale?

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