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A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. Today, ANH-Intl releases hard data in graphical format, from official sources, showing that food supplements are the safest substances to which we are commonly exposed – while being the target of increasingly restrictive European legislation aimed at ‘protecting consumers’. In contrast, being admitted to a UK hospital or taking prescription drugs exposes a person to one of the greatest preventable risks in society.
In fact, preventable medical injuries in UK hospitals expose you to around the same risk of death as being deployed on military service to Afghanistan – both of which are around 300,000 times greater than the risk of death from taking natural health products.
Risk: it’s a tricky issue, and nowhere more so than in the debate around natural versus mainstream healthcare. Today, however, we’re not interested in the details and history of the debate – instead, we want to push things forward.
We’re delighted to be able to share with you graphical comparisons of the risks of death in the UK from many risky and not-so-risky activities, both as an easy-to-understand bubble chart and as a more traditional bar chart. The relative sizes of the bubbles show how likely the individual is to die from each activity: a bigger bubble means a proportionately larger risk of death. In the next few days, we’ll have more data for you, this time looking at the situation in the entire European Union (EU).
UK relative risks of death bubble chart (click to download as a pdf, or save to your computer)
UK relative risks of death bar chart (click to download as a pdf, or save to your computer)
Our bar charts include the numerical relative risks of death to the individual for those activities, which range from taking herbal medicines and dietary supplements, via gunshot wounds and paracetamol (acetaminophen) poisoning, to preventable medical injuries in hospitals, adverse pharmaceutical drug reactions, smoking and military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Risk of death from food supplements has been assigned a value of 1 to allow calculation of the relative risk from other sources.
To clarify, the data only include risk of death from acute causes, and not from chronic, long-term exposure to any of the substances or activities we investigated. Also, the charts don’t include any data on adverse events that do not lead to death, i.e. sublethal acute effects. Where possible, all data are taken from UK government and official EU sources.
The data were collated and presented by Ron Law, an independent New Zealand-based risk management consultant.
Updated: 11 Jul 2012
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