According to "Good Morning America" and an ABC News story, there may be danger beneath your feet. No, not an earthquake or landslide, but flip-flops, the seemingly innocent staple summer sandals.
A recent report featured several people who had been injured by their plastic footwear, often due to slipping or the lack of foot support. A podiatrist stated that long-term use of the flip-flops had serious health risks, including nerve damage, tendonitis, and sprained ankles.
While wearing flip flops may harm some people, the threat of injury is remarkably remote compared with other everyday behaviors. To be sure, the "scare of the week" mentality has been a staple of the American news cycle for years. Threats to health and personal safety seem to be especially treasured in the newsroom. From shark and killer bee attacks to SARS, Mad Cow disease, and falling coconuts, no danger is too remote to warrant some ominous media warning.
One memorable public threat was publicized in a March 10, 2004, headline on CNN.com: "XXX DVDs a New Hazard for Drivers." Yes, porn on passing vehicle DVD screens is apparently right up there with drunk drivers, speeding, accidents, tired truckers, and road trash as a hidden danger on America's highways.
The truth is that anything in excess (or under the right circumstances) can harm or kill you, from exercising to drinking water. Hyping minor threats only serves to confuse the public about which threats are truly urgent and which are insignificantly remote.
If, like most people, you are reading this on a computer monitor, you are being exposed to magnetic fields and radiation right now. (Of course, walking in sunlight also exposes you to radiation, so keep to the shadows!)
Think you're safe if you're reading this on a printout?
Paper cuts injure an untold number of Americans every day. You have been warned.
Benjamin Radford wrote about how the news media exaggerate minor threats in "Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us" (2003) and satirized the trend in his short film "Clicker Clatter." These are noted on his website.