The core mission of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) since its founding in 1978 has been to counter misleading and alarmist health news in print, broadcast, and online media. In a classic ACSH publication, Facts Versus Fears: A Review of the Greatest Unfounded Health Scares of Recent Times, ACSH evaluated 27 of the greatest health scares of modern times, reviewing the basis of each, describing their presentation in the media, and presenting scientifically accurate information on each topic. Our current publication, The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2008, is organized along similar lines.
Unfortunately, old scares seem neither to die nor to fade away-some of the ones that garnered media attention in 2008 are replays of earlier scares with new twists. Once again we see alarmist groups exploiting the understandable desire of parents to protect their children by trumpeting hyperbole about the supposed dangers in toys, baby bottles, and sippy cups. But these fears are based on finding trace amounts of theoretically toxic chemicals in these items and completely ignore the toxicological principle that it's the dose that makes the poison.
Some of the scares in the following list are based on incomplete research-that is, on studies presented at scientific meetings-rather than on published articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Thus, their findings are subject to revision and surely should not be taken as the final word on a subject. Further, there is a tendency to see the finding of a correlation between the presence of a substance and a negative health outcome to mean the substance causes the outcome. But as we have explained, this is not necessarily true.
Yet another fallacy is to assume that the results of rodent studies can be directly applied to humans, which is not true, as ACSH has repeatedly explained.
The following list of scares is meant to reassure Americans that our health and well-being, and that of our children, is not really under attack by insidious exposures to disease-causing chemicals.
phthalates, bisphenol A, cell phones, coffee, toxic bras, medications in water, toxic toys, vaccines cause autism, dioxin, granite countertops
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