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Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You Paperback – October 28, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
For those who can't find enough time in a day to worry about all of life's possible dangers, there's a new book to help them prioritize. Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You is a fascinating assessment of the level of threat posed by various illnesses, accidents, environmental pollutants and other factors. David Ropeik, director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and his colleague George Gray, a toxicologist, evaluate such real or perceived menaces as cell phones, biological weapons, pesticides, mad cow disease and medical errors. For each entry, they analyze the potential hazards and offer tips for reducing risk. They also include a "Risk Meter"-a chart that shows likelihood of exposure and severity of consequences at a glance. 25 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"An endlessly fascinating reference book, to be consulted occasionally in time of need and in time of curiosity." The Denver Post
Top customer reviews
The authors make an excellent effort to come up with the most current and objective scientific knowledge. They avoid all the hype in the media that may exaggerate or understate various risks. After reading this excellent book, it is interesting to notice that by far the biggest risks to our health and survival are the behavioral risks or the risks we choose to undertake. These include smoking, drinking, obesity, and also sun tanning. These risks are far greater than pesticides, water pollution, air pollution, electro magnetic fields, and radiation from cellular phones. Thus, the authors do a good job to strengthen our common sense based on scientific evidence instead of going crazy due to misinformation by the media.
The book is excellent for several reasons. First, the authors have a solid scientific background themselves. Second, they fully recognized that no matter how smart you are, you just can't be the number one expert in everything. Thus, each of the chapters (dedicated to any one of the specific 48 risks) has been fully reviewed by one or more of the top authorities in the relevant field covered. Therefore, the book does not reflect just their opinions. In essence, each of their risk analysis has been peer-reviewed by the top specialists. Third, they provide excellent reference at the end of each section to credible websites where you could further research specific issues if you cared too. Fourth, they came up with a self explanatory Risk Meter that is a visual representation of the specific exposure to a certain risk, and severity of consequence if you are exposed to this same risk. Thus, very quickly you can get a read on how serious a specific risk is right at the beginning of each chapters. Fifth, in the Appendix 2, the authors summarize their opinions on all 48 risks. So, if you just wanted to know the bottom line on a series of rather complex risks, you could quickly refer to this Appendix, and in seconds you can figure how material these risks are to yourself.
This is definitely an excellent reference book. It is probably not the type of book you read in a sequential fashion cover to cover. Only the Ben Stiller character (a neurotic risk assessment specialist working for a life insurance company) in the comedy "Along Came Polly" would. I admit, I am like this character, and I managed to read about 29 of the 48 risks straight through. But, that is just me. I am a bit nuts about that stuff. You'll probably get a lot more by referring to the book whenever the media, or the experience of a friend or relative triggers within you a health-risk issue you want to know more about.
Also, despite publication in 2002, after the "9/11" attack and all of its attendant fall-out it fails to address even at a superficial level the preceived risks of terrorism in the US. In the index the word terrorism is noted "see biological weapons (bioweapons); perceived risk." In my opinion, this lack of coverage is glaring. Granted the book was doubtless in the works before 9/11; still, had I been the author or publisher, I'd have delayed publication until a relevant section could have been added.
This is a handy book, a relatively easy read, and probably a decent introduction to the basic concepts of relative risk assessment. As long as one understands this is a basic layperson's text and not a serious look at risk assessment, this may be a good book for you.