If you thought that a loony obsession with malevolent forces spiking our drinking water was limited to fictional characters from “Dr. Strangelove,” think again. Such characters are very real — and they belong to the extreme environmentalist movement. National Review reports that the same crowd who brought you the entirely unfounded hysteria over Alar on apples and falsely accused biotech corn of mass-murdering monarch butterflies is now warning of a deadly substance that nameless, faceless government officials are purposely putting in your tap water: fluoride.

An enviro-coalition called the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has dedicated itself to ending “fluoridation of public water supplies worldwide.” One of FAN’s founders was the late David Brower, the founder of the Earth Island Institute and Friends of the Earth, and an executive director of the Sierra Club.

While not an official member of FAN, the Sierra Club warns that there are “valid concerns” about fluoride in water. Not to be left out, perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader took a stance that would make the John Birch Society proud, arguing that if “the only objective” of fluoridation is to prevent tooth decay in children, “you don’t expose all people to fluoridated water.” (It’s “only” the children, after all!)

No matter that the fluoridation of tap water reduces tooth decay by as much as 60 percent among children and 35 percent among adults, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Extremists claim that fluoridation contributes to a medley of health problems, from broken bones to sterility. But the ADA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention both state that fluoridation is “safe and effective.” The process is also endorsed by the American Medical Association.

So how come the radical greens have picked up where the John Birch Society left off? Actually, opposition to fluoridation is a no-brainer when you slavishly follow the Golden Rule of environmentalism: the “Precautionary Principle.”

In practice, the Principle means that no action should be taken that could even possibly cause health or environmental damage, no matter how remote the chances or weak the evidence. Anti-biotechnology activist Martin Teitel admitted as much when he said “it’s difficult for me to go around saying that I want to shut this science down, so it’s safer for me to say something like, ‘It needs to be done safely before releasing it.'” Teitel noted that implementing the precautionary principle really means: “They don’t get to do it. Period.”

According to FAN, the precautionary principle dictates “that we stop putting fluoride into our drinking water … We cannot wait for everything to be proved to a certainty before we act … Simply put, if in doubt leave it out.” Of course, such one-sided risk analysis ignores that fluoridation is itself a “precaution” against tooth decay.

While we appreciate the Jesse Jackson-like patter of “when in doubt, leave it out,” we’d like to suggest a few more honest alternatives:

“Ignore the truth, you don’t need proof.”
“If not ‘pure,’ you’re never sure.”
“If the papers don’t care, invent a scare.”