The News Can Kill You

Is America the most dangerous place in the history of the world? It must be, if you believe the increasingly hysterical reports issued by our paranoid scientists, government officials, and big haired talking heads in the news media. On a typical day last month (Ozone Warning Level: Orange, Homeland Security Alert Code: Yellow) I tabulated news reports and updates about 137 things that can kill you, and that was all before eating red meat for dinner.

Besides the usual and obvious threat to life from things like rattlesnakes, cigarettes, and soldiers with guns, we were warned by the UCLA School of Dentistry that snoring can kill you. (The struggle for breath can result in soaring blood pressure which can damage the walls of the carotid arteries and increase the risk of a stroke. Persistent loud snoring may also cause your spouse to attempt to smother you with a pillow.) Light from the sun can kill you, so we have been trained to slather on SPF40 sunblock. Now it turns out that sunblock can kill you, too. And indoor light isn't any safer, because of the danger of foreign made lamps that can electrocute you.

Guns are incredibly dangerous, but doctors are 9000 times more likely to kill you than gun owners. (I don't even want to think about how deadly a gun-owning doctor might be.) We all know that fast food can kill you, but so can a low-fat diet, peanuts, wheat, or eggs. Too much alcohol can kill you, but so can too much water. Cannibalism can kill you whether you're the victim or the cannibal. Skyscrapers can be lethal, but so can the music you listen to while driving, bleeding gums, and salt substitute.

Even if you don't have a statistically dangerous job as a bodyguard, or bomb squad cop, you're still not safe at work, because even boring jobs can kill you, according to researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health. They found that workers who spent their lives in undemanding jobs with little control over their work were 35 percent more likely to die during a 10-year period than workers in challenging jobs with lots of decision-making responsibilities.

Divorce can kill you, due to stress and its effect on your immune system. In fact, just becoming single takes seven years off your life expectancy, although those would probably have been years spent arguing with your spouse about whose turn it is to cook and clean. (As Phyllis Diller said, "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance.")

Outdoors we face lethal dangers from lightning, small avalanches, jet blast, grain dust, airbags, and road stripes. But indoors you will run across the even scarier lethal dangers of root canals, amalgam fillings, ozone generators, vintage Barbie dolls, and showering (which "boosts concentrations of potentially hazardous trihalomethanes.")

Cancer can kill you, but what causes cancer? Better watch out for: hair dye, talcum powder, bacon, make-up, tanning parlors, cell phones, diet soda, estrogen, dry cleaning, second hand smoke, and horror of horrors... sexual intercourse! Is all this giving you heartburn? Uh-oh...heartburn can cause cancer! Maybe you need an anti-depressant? Guess what? Anti-depressants can cause cancer, too. But at least you won't be as depressed when you get it.

It's become increasingly obvious that fanatical religions can be hazardous to your health, but so can Gefilte fish, Mexican candies, perfume, and even deep breathing (by "leading to respiratory alkalosis, a condition which can be benign or potentially catastrophic.") Tongue piercing can be fatal, yet another reason to keep your unsupervised teenagers away from the mall. Getting hooked while fishing can be fatal. And sex can be fatal for men not up to it, which begs the question, if they're not up to it how can they have sex in the first place? Perhaps the answer is Viagra. Unfortunately researchers have already found that too much Viagra can kill you (though no researchers lived to tell about it.)

Mosquitoes are the most deadly animal known to man. Other things on the most deadly list include: black widow spiders, Pontiac Firebirds, Jacksonville roads, and painless heart attacks. Government scientists have even found that "water is the most deadly substance known to man."

The fat in your blood can kill you. Wearing a bra can kill you. Teen sex can kill you. Having kids can kill you faster.

An occasional cup of coffee is worse for the heart than drinking it every day. The internet can kill you in a short 48 hours, and so can your CD-ROM, practical jokes, too much sleep, too much studying, too many demos, being too smart, and too much of a good thing. The air you breathe can kill you. Deadly side effects can kill you. In fact, nearly anything can kill you, and scientists are working hard to prove it. But working too hard can also kill you, so if you're a scientist be careful about that.

Perhaps most frightening of all are ongoing studies, reported by New Scientist magazine, that fear can kill you. For example, Dr Robert Kloner, a California cardiologist, found that on the day of the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, the coroner recorded five times more sudden cardiac deaths than would ordinarily be expected. Dr Kloner said: "This was nothing to do with people physically exerting themselves as they dug themselves out of the rubble. The typical story was that a patient clutched his chest, described chest pain, and dropped over dead."

I wonder how many of these victims were watching or listening to the news?


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