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True Warnings and False Alarms: Evaluating Fears about Health Risks of Technology, 1948-1971

By: Allan Mazur

191 pages, Tabs, figs

Resources for the Future

Paperback | Dec 2004 | #151832 | ISBN: 1891853562
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $24/€22 approx
Hardback | Dec 2004 | #151833 | ISBN: 1891853554
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £55.00 $67/€62 approx

About this book

Today, there is broad agreement that CFCs destroy stratospheric ozone. On the other hand, research does not support claims that electromagnetic fields from transmission lines cause a noticeable increase of leukaemia. But new allegations arise. Are manufactured chemicals in the environment distorting hormonal processes in our bodies? Are genetically modified foods a cause for concern? Addressing one of the most vexing problems in risk policy, Allan Mazur asks how we can tell, at an early stage, how seriously we should take a new warning. To identify hallmarks that could help predict the truth or falsity of an alleged hazard, Mazur analyzes 31 health warnings raised during the 1950s and 60s about diverse technologies including fluoridation, DDT, cyclamate, nuclear weapons testing and contraceptive pills. Among his considerations are the initial source of an alarm, the biases held by its "sponsors" and the type of media coverage it received. With 30 to 50 years of hindsight, he identifies characteristics - apparent from the outset of a controversy - that most effectively distinguish between true warnings from false alarms. Mazur's findings do not provide certainty about which of today's warnings will prove true and which will prove false. But they do help us to make informed judgments about where it is best and most reasonable to direct our worries and resources.

'A thought-provoking book with a heterogenic collection of cases. The author demonstrates that in some cases the risks were hyped and later proved innocuous. No comparable study exists of warnings that were unheeded, unhyped, and later proved true.' Choice 'An exemplar of applied social science. Until we have evidence otherwise, Mazuri? s hallmarks of true and false alarms should be our guides when deciding whether or not to believe the alarms of our time.' Environmental Science and Policy


Preface 1. True Warnings and False Alarms 2. Technology as Friend and Sometime Foe: 1900-1947 3. Lawlessi? s Era: 1948-1971 4. Why Experts in Technical Controversies Disagree 5. Evaluating the Lawless Warnings: True or False? 6. Coding the Cases 7. Hallmarks of True and False Alarms 8. Hindsight and Foresight Appendixes I. Summary of Cases II. Case Studies References Index

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Allan Mazur is professor of public affairs at Syracuse University. An engineer and a sociologist, he has published nearly 200 papers and five books, including A Hazardous Inquiry; a Study of the Love Canal Controversy.

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