Unfounded Health Scares Proliferated in '08

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the nation during the Great Depression, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Try telling that to Americans who read the media headlines in which a new or recycled health scare appears almost daily. In their latest roundup, scientists associated with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) describe the genesis of 10 of the most outrageous health scares of 2008 and explain that they have little or no basis in scientific fact.

"Anything that can be linked to infants or children is prime fodder for the scare-mongers," notes ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. This year, the kid-related scares included:
• Phthalates in rubber duckies and baby shampoo
• Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups
• Toxic toys on store shelves during the holidays
• Vaccines and autism

Chemophobia is also a recurrent theme in this year's scares, according to ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross. He noted, "What better way to garner consumers' attention than to assert that there are dangerous pharmaceuticals in everyone's drinking water, or that granite countertops emit dangerous levels of radioactivity."

"Food and drink are also perennial targets of anti-chemical activists," said Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH nutrition director. This year, we learned that drinking coffee can shrink women's breasts and that Irish pork contains dangerous dioxins!

Many of these unfounded health claims are reruns, simply refurbished with new alarms, but they are certainly no more scientifically sound than they were in the past. Each scare (and there are more on the ACSH website) only distracts people from the real, proven health risks that they should attend to—such as not smoking, maintaining appropriate body weight, and getting necessary vaccinations.

For additional information or for interview, contact Dr. Gilbert Ross, Medical Director, at 516-581-8400, or RossG@acsh.org