"Tanning beds as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas" (Not.)

July 30, 2009  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

"Tanning beds as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas," declares the headline of one of many similar stories about a new study.

"According to new research tanning beds are as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas, which confirms what doctors long suspected," it declares. Wrongly.

The article was about cancer risks, which you would know without reading a word of it insofar as it appeared in the medical journal Lancet Oncology and was authored by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Most people probably never even knew arsenic caused cancer and even I didn't know mustard gas does. It's not the most important information in the world, seeing as most of us are pretty careful to keep our exposure to arsenic and mustard gas to a minimum.

The writer confused acute toxicity, for which both arsenic and mustard gas are quite famous, with carcinogenicity. But was the writer truly confused? It was, after all, a study entirely about causes of human cancer. UV radiation from tanning beds just happened to be one of them. No, it was just a bit more disinformation to draw the reader's eye away from more responsible journalism.