THE CYPRUS WEEKLY BEWARE: => ing You Dols Risky LEFT FOR ARTIFICIAL HARMFUL FOOD ADDITIVES 2? TA RW Ses - . Nov. 2-8, 1979 = qui? TTT) . ~ LIVING IS A GRAVE BUSINESS New York (A P) - People are healthier and live longer than ever before. Yet, every minute of our lives, some expert or another finds a new hazard in the world. _ A constant chorus warns us of poisons in every pleasure, risks in every convenience, peril in every pastime. Ominous statistics abound. People are told to beware of nitrites in bacon, saccharine in soft drinks, and lately cancer, perhaps, in the daily ration of Scotch. What to make of it all? How does one mea- sure risks in a practical way? When does benefit outweigh hazard? How protective should govern- ment be? The trouble with these rational questions is that they're all but unanswerable. Harvard University physics professor Rich- ard Wilson produced some statistics to put these risks in perspective. Each of the following Is equal, increasing your chance of death by one- millionth: Smoking 1.4 cigar- éttes. Drinking ‘2a litre of wine. Spending three hours in a coal mine. Liv- ing two days in New York. Traveling six minutes by canoe, or ten mites by bicycle, or 300 miles by Car, or 1,000 miles by jet. Or eating 40 table- spoons of peanut butter. . Or drinking 30 cans of diet soda. Cigarettes, of course, are associated with can- cer and heart disease. Orinking, cirrhosis of the liver. The coal mine, black lung disease and physical Injury. Accidents by any means of iocomotion. And it's cancer from the aflatoxin in peanut butter and the saccharin In diet soda. Daredevil More and more, ex- perts are looking at the growing catalogue of risks, looking for a ratio- nal compromise between a daredevil life and one in which people are wrap- ped in cotton, boxed in cardboard stamped “fra- gile” and toid which end is up. Wilson created his list of risks to help himself put risks in some per- spective. How much is a millionth of your life worth? And shouldn't you have some choice? At Purdue University, bionucleonics professor Paut Zaimer seriously measures radiation,- but even he has to smile at some of the ironies con- jured up by millirems and rads. Take potassium 40. li exists In nature. It's absorbed into muscle with ordinary potassium because the body can’t teil the differ- ence. And the more mus- cle you have, the more radioactive you are. Dr. Zetmer's implicit SMI. TO CIGARETTE radioactive. G lost. 2,100 days. abruptly! advice to women: Stay away from men, or atleast choose a 97-pound (44 kilo) weakling. No foot- bali players. No crowded elevators. Fragile Risk statistics are fra- gile. But risk measure-_ ment - relative risk - is a serious problem, and a growing number of peo- ple are paying attention to it. Senior Circuit Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington put it suc- cinctly in a recent article in the journal “Science”. “tronicatly, scientific progress not only creates new risks, but also un- covers previously un- known risks..As our understanding of the world grows exponen- tially, we are constantly [estraigut AHEAD FOR rt | Wa, ~ Y yy 8 XK TAN Z| HON A Get Married To Live Longer University of Pittsburgh researchers have translated vari- ous kinds of risks into the number of days of life expectancy If you are anunmarried male you live 3,500 days -- almost 10 years less than average. If you are a cigarette smoking male, this will cost you Being 30 percent overweight costs 1,300 days. Working in a coalmine shortens your life by 1,100 days. Traffic accidents shorten your life by 207 days or end it Average alchohol intake costs 130 days. Home accidents cost 95 days. Drinking coffee cost six days - but then you probably make these up by sleeping less. learning that old activi- ties, once thought safe, in fact pose substantial risks. The question is not whether we will have risk at all, but how much risk and from what source. Perhaps even more im- portant, the question is who will decide?” One must measure the cost of avoiding cer- tain risks. One must mea- sure environmental con- siderations like cleaner air and water against energy shortages, and the balance sheet keeps changing. Recently, Dr. William Barclay, editor of the American Medical Asso- ciation journal, cited inequities in the measure- ment of everything from artificial sweeteners to nuclear plants. “Tests that form the basis of these reports are PAGE 9 — often conducted with dosages that exceed any to which man could be exposed, are adminis- tered for periods that equal the natural life span of the test animals, and are given by Inappropri- ate routes, and are finally evaluated by persons of questionable expertise.” It is the job of Dr. Joseph Rodricks of the Food and Drug Adminis- tration to deal with risk. In the past two decades, he says, we have become more sensitive to risks. That was prompted by the tremendous spread of synthetic chemicals especially since World War If. There are about 30 chemical substances that appear to cause cancer in humans, but it is also a (Continued on Next page) , = bage, (Continued from page 9) fact that some cancer causing substances are also found naturally in everyday food like corn and peanuts. “If we look at foods the way we look at some of the things we intention- ally add to them, we are going to find a lot of sub- stances that look danger- ous,” Rodricks says. And in fact they do. The National Academy of Sciences has published a book discussing naturally occurring poisons in food. Potatoes and spin- ach contain a natural chemical that denies cai- cium to the bones. Cab- bage, caulifower mu- stard and collard greens, brussel sprouts deny the thyroid iodine, and can produce goiters. There are traces of cancer - causing chemicals in cab- lettuce, spinach, leeks and tea. There are chemicals relative to cya- nide In lima beans, sweet potatoes, yams, peas, cherries and apricots. The thrust of control is aimed at synthetic chemicals, the reasoning being that we've lived long enough with the oth- ers, and we're still heal- thy, but the synthetics are new. , An article in “Scie- nce” charged that federal agencies are slow to con- trol even the synthetics. It said, of 1,500 ingredients in registered pesticides, one-third are toxic, one- fourth are cnacer-caus- ing. While the Environ- mental Protection Agen- cy (EPA) has establised pesticide limits in food, only five have been res- tricted specifically, the article said. LIVING IS A GRAVE BUSINESS But the very numbers are overwhelming. The article also said 20 per- cent of the 70,000 chemi- cals in commercial use examined by EPA are suspected carcinogens. It added that of 28,000 chemicals listed as toxic by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 2,200 were suspected carcinogens. Few had been seti- ously restricted, which indicate the questionabil- ity of such labels, or the political pressure brought against restrictions. Scientists, ‘legistators, regulators, even tne courts ponder the dichot- omy between risk-taking and avoidance. Judge Bazelon notes that scientists question leaving such questions to the public, which toler- ates 50,000 automobile deaths a year, yet worries about suspected cancer- causing agents. Richard Wilson, in compiling his list of risks, found that it was equally hazardous to have one chest X-ray, live two months with a cigarette smoker, eat 100 charcoal broiled steaks, live 20 years near a polyvinyl chloride piant or live 150 years within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant. To give yet another measure of risk, Bernard L. Cohen and I-Sing Lee of the University of Pitts- burgh translated various States of risk into the number of days of life expectancy lost. (see box) But you can make up for the bad news. Having a PAP test adds four days to your life expectancy. Mobile coronary care units add 125, and all safety improvements from 1966 to 1976 add 410. Why did Cohen and Lee perform this mathe- matical exercise? “The public is con- stantly harangued about all sorts of risks,” they wrote in “Healthy Phy- sics” journal, “and its per- ception of risks plays an important role in gover- mental decision making. The risks of radiation have especially been emphasized in the popu- lar press. This creates a very serious problem since the public does not understand risk.. it gets highly excited about radi- ation risks which are almost never fatal, whef- eas it largely ignores other risks which claim thousands of lives every year.” Very little in the risk game is absolute. Even people who work with risks find a gap between their profes- sional responsibilities and their personal behav- ior. Dr. Rodricks worries about nitrites in bacon and hot dogs profession- ally, but personally: “| appreciate the risks in cigarettes very well. | know absolutely. There's no question. One of the few certainties of our times. But I still smoke occasionally. | know its wrong in a health sense, but obviously it gives me some other satisfaction. | know | take other kinds of risks when | drive or doa little mountain climbing... “What | don’t like is the hidden risk. When |! know there is arisk, | have a choice. I’m not a zero risk person, but can you avoid all risks? You can't.”