Tag Archives: risk

TSA’s High Failure Rate Is the Least of its Problems

TSA scanners miss as many as 70 percent of banned items that passengers bring to security checkpoints, by some estimates.

The TSA’s PR staff is taking issue with the figures, but isn’t bothering to put out its own numbers.

The Economist points out:

Surely if TSA screeners were doing much better in covert testing, the agency would be eager to release the data. That hasn’t happened. You don’t have to be a cynic to think that the current, unreleased numbers might not be quite as impressive as the agency would like.

Also worth pointing out – there has not been a single successful terrorist attack even with all the contraband that makes it onto airplanes. This is because terrorism is rare. It just doesn’t cost very many lives compared to other threats.

These greater threats include automobile crashes (40,000 deaths per year), heart disease (616,067 deaths in 2009), and cancer (562,875 deaths in 2009). Terrorist attacks, on the other hand, are twenty times rarer than deaths by lightning strikes.

If policymakers were rational, they would give twenty times more attention to lightning strike prevention than to terrorism. But they aren’t, and they don’t. That means the TSA’s $8.1 billion budget, by using up resources that would save more lives elsewhere, will continue to cost more lives than it saves for the foreseeable future.

The Real Cost of TARP

Russ Roberts nails it over at Cafe Hayek:

Please remember that the cost of the TARP isn’t the cost to taxpayers. Even if banks paid back every single penny, the cost of the TARP is that it reduces current and future prudence.

Regulation of the Day 117: Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are delicious. Especially if you don’t think too hard about what they’re made of. Kids love them. So do adults. With baseball’s spring training already underway, consumption of the national pastime’s unofficial food is set to skyrocket in the coming months.

All is not sunshine, happiness, and home runs, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention thinks that hot dogs are dangerous, calling them a “high-risk food.” They are a choking hazard for children.

“We know what shape, sizes and consistencies pose the greatest risk for choking in children and whenever possible food manufacturers should design foods to avoid those characteristics, or redesign existing foods when possible, to change those characteristics to reduce the choking risk,” said Dr. Gary Smith… “Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk,” he pointed out.

Dr. Smith also wants mandatory warning label regulations for all hot dog packaging. But nobody seems to be asking: Just how big is the risk here?

According to WebMD, 66 to 77 children under 10 die every year from choking on food in the U.S. That’s out of more than 42,000,000 children under 10, according to my calculations from U.S. Census data.

That means your child’s odds of choking to death on food are about 1 in 545,000. And that’s assuming 77 deaths, the high end of the range. Little Timmy is literally more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 500,000) than choke to death on a hot dog.

That’s the level of threat we’re dealing with. Treat it that way.

Our children face far greater threats than mere hot dogs. Instead of advocating hot dog safety regulations of dubious benefit, the AAP should rethink its priorities. They should focus on where they can do the most good, instead of where they can do the most nothing.

Regulation of the Day 96: Health Warnings on Cell Phones

The state of Maine and the city of San Francisco are considering requiring warning labels for cell phones.

Perhaps some warning labels are in order. After all, few things are more annoying than people SPEAKING AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE INTO THEIR PHONE ABOUT WHAT’S FOR DINNER when a normal tone of voice will do.

But these warning labels have nothing to do with letting people know that their phones can make them look like jackasses.

No, the labels warn the credulous that their phones emit electromagnetic radiation. Otherwise known as light waves. Some people believe that this causes brain cancer.

Brain atrophy, maybe. But cancer? Most studies have found no correlation, let alone causation.

Something else to consider: the demographic group far and away most prone to brain cancer is also far and away the least likely to use cell phones – the elderly.

Hmm.