September 21, 2015

Be Risk-Savvy: Consumers Need to Ask Questions about the Real Risks of Products

Dima Yazji Shamoun

Associate Director of Research, University of Texas Center for Politics & Governance
Summary

You are not safe. You are eating, drinking and breathing chemicals. Step outside and you're bombarded with radiation from both the sun and the Earth. Stay in your home and your spouse is irradiating you while you sleep. The media sensationalizes each new study indicating that product X or activity Y is unsafe, but if anything, they are understating the danger. The ink in your newspaper is unsafe, the wireless signal to your laptop is unsafe, and the stress of hearing about all of this is unsafe. So, given these facts of life, is this a useful way to frame the problem?

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You are not safe. You are eating, drinking and breathing chemicals. Step outside and you're bombarded with radiation from both the sun and the Earth. Stay in your home and your spouse is irradiating you while you sleep. The media sensationalizes each new study indicating that product X or activity Y is unsafe, but if anything, they are understating the danger. The ink in your newspaper is unsafe, the wireless signal to your laptop is unsafe, and the stress of hearing about all of this is unsafe.

So, given these facts of life, is this a useful way to frame the problem?

A new wave of concern focuses on the safety of e-cigarettes. In one article covering the latest findings, Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health, is quoted telling us that "[a]nyone who thinks that vaping [inhaling nicotine-infused liquid through a vaporizer] is harmless needs to know that our testing unequivocally shows that it's not safe to vape." And he is right.

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