The odds of serious risks that people can relate to

SOURCES: - all records from 2002

Risk of Dying next year: 
Transport Accidents
Pedestrian				1 in 47,273
Pedal Cyclist				1 in 375,412
Motor Cycle Rider			1 in 89,562
Car occupant				1 in 17,625

Risk of Dying next year:
Transport Accidents
Occupant  of pick-up truck or van	1 in 67,182
Traveling in heavy transport vehicle	1 in 631,450
Occupant  of a bus			1 in 6,696,307
Riding horse or animal drawn vehicle	1 in 244,180

Risk of Dying next year:
Transport Accidents
While on railway train			1 in 10,283,615
Occupant of street car			1 in 71,985,305
Occupant of agricultural vehicle	1 in 1,932,491
While on water transportation		1 in 466,679
From air and space accidents		1 in 440,951

Risk of Dying next year:
Tripping/slipping at same level		1 in 445,729
Falling from bed, chair or furniture	1 in 366,804
Falling from stairs or steps		1 in 180,188
Falling from ladder or scaffolding	1 in 709,215
Falling out of building			1 in 516,950

Risk of Dying next year:
Struck by objects unintentionally
Hit by some object			1 in 333,265
Caught between 2 objects		1 in 2,503,837
Contact with machinery			1 in 441,628
Contact with sharp objects		1 in 2,742,297

Risk of Dying next year:
Unintentional firearms discharge	1 in 57,588,244
Explosion of pressurized vessels	1 in 10,664,490
Explosion of fireworks			1 in 57,588,244
Explosion of other materials		1 in 2,101,781

Risk of Dying next year:
Animate causes
Struck by a person			1 in 11,074,662
Bitten by a dog				1 in 15,966,734
Bitten by other mammals			1 in 3,839,216
Bitten or stung by insect		1 in  22,149,325

Risk of Dying next year:
Accidental drowning
All causes				1 in 83,534
In bath tub				1 in 818,015
In swimming pool			1 in 452,738
In natural water			1 in 217,314

Risk of Dying next year:
Accidental threats to breathing
Suffocation in bed			1 in 565,700
Strangulation				1 in 969,499
Cave-in or falling earth		1 in 5,051,600
Food- in respiratory tract		1 in 351,577

Risk of Dying next year:
Electricity, temperature
Electric transmission lines		1 in 2,641,663
Other electric current			1 in 894,227
Contact with hot tap water		1 in 7,198,531
Excessive  man-made heat or cold	1 in 28,784,122

Risk of Dying next year:
Smoke, fire and flames
All causes				1 in 91,149
Uncontrolled fire in building		1 in 113,676
Controlled fire in building		1 in 8,226,892
Ignition of nightwear			1 in 22,149,325

Risk of Dying next year:
Venomous Animals and plants
Contact with venomous snakes		1 in  95,980,407
Contact with venomous spiders		1 in 28,794,122
Contact  hornets, wasps and bees	1 in 5,332,245

Risk of Dying next year:
Forces of Nature
All types and causes			1 in 236,211
From Lightning strikes			1 in 4,326,748
From earthquakes			1 in 9,288,426
From cataclysmic storm			1 in 4,570,498
From Floods				1 in 31,993,469
Excessive natural heat			1 in 822,689
Excessive natural cold			1 in 445,729

Risk of Dying next year:
Poisoning and Noxious Substances
All types and causes			1 in 16,407
Gases and vapors			1 in 416,702
Alcohol					1 in 811,102
Pain relievers, anti-rheumatics etc	1 in 1,297,033
Narcotics and hallucinogens		1 in 34,843

Risk of dying next year:
Intentional Self-Harm
All types and causes			1 in 9,096
Self -poisoning				1 in 52,487
Self-hanging, strangulation		1 in 44,559
Self-harm by firearm			1 in 16,831

Risk of dying next year:
Assault by someone else
All types and cases			1 in 16,325
Assault by firearm			1 in 24,342
Assault by sharp object			1 in 138,834
Legal execution				1 in 4,297,630

Risk of dying next year:
Cause known  undetermined intent
Poisoning				1 in 86,313
Hanging, strangulation			1 in 2,164,927
Firearm discharge			1 in 1,184,943
Falling from high place			1 in 2,795,546
Drowning or submersion			1 in 1,111,742

Risk of dying next year:
Medical Conditions
Complications by medical and surgical care	1 in 101,281
Various medicaments and biologics		1 in 41,828
Anti-epileptic, sedative-hypnotic, etc		1 in 281,193
Overexertion, travel and privation		1 in 2,249,541

Likelihood of Mother Dying During Childbearing
In Developed Regions of World		1 death per 5000 live births
In Europe				1 death per 4167 live births
In Latin America and Caribbean		1 death per 526 live births
In Asia					1 death per 303 live births
In Africa				1 death per 120 live births

Lifetime Risk of Death in Childbearing
(includes risk per pregnancy and likely number of pregnancies.)
In North America			1 in 3750
In Europe				1 in 1895
Lain America & Caribbean		1 in 150
In Asia					1 in 105
In Africa				1 in 15

Unintentional Injury Deaths in Infants <1 year of age
Mechanical suffocation			1 in 18,970 live births
Motor vehicle (traffic)			1 in 22,075 live births
Fire and Flames				1 in 35,211 live births
Drowning				1 in 46,948 live births
Inhalation of non-food object		1 in 57,142 live births

Annual Risk of Death at Work
All workers				1 in 28,571
Agricultural workers			1 in 3,425
Mining					1 in 3,534
Professional & Business services	1 in 34,483
Financial activities			1 in 142,858

Annual Risk of Death at Home
All people, all risks			1 in 7,875
Death from Falls			1 in 23,162
Death from Poisoning			1 in 30,288
Death from Fires			1 in 87,500

Annual Risk of Death from Choking
Overall rate of Death			1 in 70,000
Risk for Teenager 13-20 years		1 in 1,000,000
Risk for Senior aged 53-63 years	1 in 100,000
Risk for Aged Person 75-84 years	1 in 10,000
Risk for Person 90-94 years		1 in 2,000

Paling’s Perspectives on the Home Base Zone

In general, we are all “at home with” many of the risks of likelihoods in the range 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 10 million. That is to say that, although when we stop to consider many of these risks, we recognize that they are potentially lethal and indeed could affect people such as ourselves, we do not change our behavior around to avoid them. It is as if we recognize that there are just too many possible risks that might kill each one of us in our daily lives that we just adopt common sense and carry on living our lives.

Sadly, but in truth, no one can be sure that some unforeseen combination of events won’t cause them a major injury or even death any day.

Fatalists may take the attitude “When my number comes up, there’s nothing I can do about.”

Pragmatists, on the other hand, recognize that building personal resiliency factors can provide a series of protective and restorative factors that can help individuals bounce back whatever the particular harm that may befall them.

Paling’s Perspectives on Comparing Risks

There is a lot of rubbish talked about not comparing risks. However, we all do it whether we are conscious of it or not. Indeed that is how the human sense organs seem to work (by making logarithmic comparisons). That is also the way that people naturally think and talk about risks- as evidenced by virtually all media reports.

However, many people who work in the field of risk communication are obsessively against comparing any new risk with another risk for fear that it could be deceptive. In individual cases, that is certainly a possibility (for many good reasons). But no one seems to be giving any reason why we should not compare some new, unfamiliar risk with the range of risks that we are all at home with in our daily lives. When you use that broad band of likelihoods for potentially fatal risks (shown in green on the scale), it becomes very clear that some high profile worries are of such low probabilities that logically society might do better to devote its resources to other more routine risks that are harming or even killing many more people in our society

Paling’s Perspectives on Informed Consent

There is a chasm of difference between the realities and practicalities of how many risks a surgeon, say, should reasonably be expected to tell his patient and what the theory of the process might expect. The ethical imperative of informing patients is excellent but the most recent ethical guidelines suggests that the threshold of what risks should be mentioned should be anything “more than minimal risk” (Note they immediately seek to define a threshold by comparing risks!)
However the sorts of risks that ethicists suggest should be the baseline for “minimal” were “driving to work, crossing a street, getting a blood test.” These represent odds far less than 1 in a million and as such would mean that a surgeon might be expected to deliver a list of hundreds of risks. His would be harmful to the patients’ state of mind as well as being impracticable.

Perhaps a new threshold of a reasonable level of reportable risk should be defined somewhere in the “home base zone”(above).

This would have the benefit of being practical as well as ethical.

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