108 Hazards in 80 Seconds: What Can’t Kill You?
The world is full of hazards, and a new video from the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan lists 108 things could be hazardous to your health (it’s pretty catchy—it’s set to the tune of Tom Lehrer’s Elements Song). But as Dr. Andrew Maynard, head of the center, explains: “Of course, while anything on the list could potentially kill, maim, or otherwise harm you, that’s not going to happen unless you’re actually exposed to enough of the hazard to make a difference!”
We’re constantly being warned about health hazards despite little evidence these items pose much risk when used as intended. Scary headlines and laws like California’s Proposition 65, which requires a warning on everything from coffee to sunglasses, scare consumers about tiny possible risks in cancer rates—we’re talking “more than one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime.” Just like Proposition 65 warnings fail to tell consumers about possible health benefits of the items they might use or consumers (for example coffee may have some disease fighting benefits), headlines about how everything from sunscreen to genetically modified apples might be harm our health could scare consumers from wearing sunscreen (and fighting skin cancer) or eating fresh produce (a key part of a healthy diet).
Consuming too much of just about anything will kill you—even water! That’s why it’s so important to keep risk in perspective when you’re reviewing media coverage exposing the latest health hazard.