I. Introduction

Some old scares refuse to die. This year finds us with revivals of more than a few stories that we had hoped would stay in the junk scares graveyard, where they belong. But from phthalates to genetically modified fish, consumers continue to be needlessly frightened about safe products. Still, we’ve also been kept on our toes with plenty of new scares — we’ve been told that the apple juice we give to our kids every day has dangerous amounts of arsenic, and that vaccinating teenagers against HPV to prevent cervical cancer can instead cause “mental retardation.”

At the American Council on Science and Health, our goal is to increase people’s awareness of actual threats to their health — smoking, for example...