3 January 2012

Don’t Be Fooled by Health Scares

Posted by Jody under: Aches & Pains .

When it comes to health scares, April Fools’ Day isn’t the only day to watch out for. So much information is currently available to consumers over the Internet, in the media, and on food and product labels that it can be hard to know which sources to trust for reliable advice about health-related issues. Conflicting reports can also raise public anxiety about what’s safe and what’s not.

In honor of April Fools’ Day, here’s a look at three health scares from the past decade that caused a public clamor, but in the end turned out to be unfounded.

Benzene in Perrier (1990) — Laboratory workers in North Carolina detected benzene in samples of Perrier they were using for comparison with tap water in water contamination tests. The Food and Drug Administration subsequently found benzene contamination in several shipments of Perrier, and the company halted production worldwide. It was soon found, however, that benzene existed naturally in Perrier’s source spring, and employees had forgotten to change the filters at the source. Once the filters were changed and the benzene levels reduced, Perrier returned to the shelves, although not before the FDA determined that even in the “contaminated” product, the risk was small: drinking 16 ounces of Perrier per day over the course of a lifetime might increase the risk of cancer by 1 in 1 million.

Cell Phones (1993) — After his wife died from cancer, David Reynard appeared on CNN’s “Larry King” show and alleged that her brain tumor, located behind her ear, had been caused by the electromagnetic magnetic fields, or EMFs, from her cellular phone antenna. Several lawsuits against cellular phone companies followed, cellular phone sales dropped, and congressional hearings were held. The FDA, the National Cancer Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency upheld the safety of cellular phones. Within months, sales picked up again. Over the years, consumers have also expressed concern about the health effects of EMFs from other sources like computer monitors, electric blankets and alarm clocks, although studies have shown that the use of such devices is not harmful.

The message is: When it comes to health scares, don’t be fooled and don’t jump to conclusions. Articles about health issues often make it into the media before scientific experts have thoroughly investigated the issue. As these examples show, rigorous investigation over time often proves that the health scares are unfounded.

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