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The Top 10 Unfounded Health Scares of 2008

Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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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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Dec. 27, 2008 at 4:16 PM

Great ariticle!

Thank you!

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Dec. 31, 2008 at 8:22 AM

awesome, thanks for sharing.  voted poplar too, more people need to see this :)  Happy New Year!!!

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Dec. 31, 2008 at 8:28 AM

Thanks for posting this. Another board of which I am a member is constantly going on and on about how terrible phthalates, BPA and vaccines are.

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Dec. 31, 2008 at 2:41 PM

Thank you!  I voted popular!

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Dec. 31, 2008 at 2:46 PM

What's wrong w/ the USA taking a precautionary role?  Isn't risk vs benefit weighted in making the decision as to whether or not a substance should be introduced into the products that we use?  If the chemical is something that we can ingest, wouldn't you want evidence showing that it's safe?  I guess I would just want more information on how the USA makes these decisions.

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Jan. 1, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Nothing wrong with precaution, but I think the FDA and CDC could just do it better.  They can cause some panic when there really is nothing to panic about at the moment.  I think we should be very careful of any substance, I think anything for consumption or medication or supplements should all be subjected to rigorous study before allowing it to be sold in the USA.  That includes all "natural" medicines.  At least we could say they don't work better than placebo and are not harmful, if they show that in the studies.  I am continually amazed that so many people who believe in "natural" medicine and therapies are critical of the slowness of the FDA in approving new medicines, yet will take anything labelled "natural" without any type of study at all and believe what the label says and what the purveyors of such "medicines" say.  It should all be subjected to the same rigorous study before approval.

Case in point, there is an underground "supplement" for "chelation" that was made in a chemist's house (he readily admits this) that was rejected by the FDA because his only safety study was in a few animals, who didn't die, and they seemed normal, so it was by his standards okay.  He then relabels it as a "food supplement" which is unregulated and is selling it undergrounds to DAN! doctors who are using it to chelate autistic children, who have no proven mercury poisoning in the first place.  He is making a ton of money off this.  No one knows how this will effect children in the short term or long term.  No one even knows if it actually does what he says it is supposed to do, because he never did any studies to show it actually works.

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Jan. 1, 2009 at 6:53 PM

thank you hon! the cranberry scare? i loved that one!

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Jan. 1, 2009 at 7:01 PM

you know what saddens me though karen?

 no matter how credible the source.... they still think because they have a vagina...gave birth, that they now know more than eveyone else... it makes them dr.s and scientists.

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Jan. 1, 2009 at 10:49 PM

That's what kills me (literally??) these quack a-holes that package their crap as natural, do zero testing and all the idiots bobbing their head up and down at their supposed effectiveness.  Our public school system is failing us.  Sorry if this seems OT, but logic and basic reasoning skills would put this crap to rest. 

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