Monday, December 22, 2008

How Many People Die From Happiness?

Answer: None, zip, zero. Happiness is what keeps us alive.

The Cause of Death book blog is closed for the holidays and will be back live in 2009. Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Much Would Legalizing Marijuana Reduce the Federal Deficit?

ANSWER: Not Much

Although legalized marijuana would provide an additional "sin tax" revenue stream, along with tobacco and alcohol, the estimated $27.9 billion collected in 2010 ($11,030 million from alcohol, $10,700 million from tobacco and an estimated $6,200 million from marijuana) would be less than 1% of the projected federal receipts of $2,931,348 million that year. But, then, every little bit helps! For more info see the GAO 2009 budget.

HISTORY - It was during World War II (1939-1945) that then President Franklin D. Roosevelt made tobacco a protected crop after America's consumption of tobacco rose 2 1/2 times between 1930 and 1940. Roosevelt had already overseen the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, which had outlawed alcohol in 1919. The $1.2 billion in revenue from "sin" taxes in 1940 rose to $3.7 billion in 1947 and helped move the country towards a post-war budget surplus after running at a deficit from 1934 through 1946. But as a % of all federal receipts, excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco has declined each decade from a high point in 1940, when alcohol and tobacco excise taxes exceeded the individual income tax by 5%, to 1% or less from 1990 through a projected 2010.

TOBACCO - Tobacco is estimated to kill 440,000 annually in the U.S. and 2.1 million worldwide. It causes 30% of all cancers and is the primary cause of the rise in cancer death rates around the world.

ALCOHOL - According to the CDC, alcohol was responsible for 21,634 alcohol-induced deaths in the U.S. in 2005. If not used in excess, however (no more than 8 ounces daily), alcohol has been proven to be good for you.

MARIJUANA - Weed accounts for 0 to 2 annual deaths in the U.S. This does not count the possible deaths from smoking-related causes or from driving stoned. Because it is illegal, there is no excise tax revenue and the cost of policing it is high. According to a recent report cited on About.Com, the U.S. spends about $7.7 billion per year in state and federal enforcement expenses and loses another $6.2 billion in potential excise tax revenue on marijuana. As with alcohol, there are many documented benefits from the safe use of marijuana. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 12, 2008

When Death Has A Name

Tropical storms and atomic bombs share two things: They are each given names and they can be very deadly.

So how does the deadliest cyclone compare to the deadliest atomic bomb explosions? Mother nature, at least so far, has been more destructive.

In November 1970, Cyclone Bhola struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and killed an estimated 500,000. With a Bangladesh population in 1970 of 67,403,000 people that's a death rate of 741.8 per 100,000. (That's about the same death rate as the 65 to 74 year olds who died from all types of cancer in the U.S. in 2005 (742.7 per 100,000 persons in that age range)).

In August 1945, the bombs Littleboy and Fatman were exploded by the U.S. in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan during World War II killing 214,000. With a Japanese population in 1945 of 71,998,104 that's a rate of death of 297.2 per 100,000. (Slightly more than the death rate for 65-74 year olds who died from lung cancer in the U.S. in 2005 (259.6 per 100,000 persons age 65-74)).

Interestingly, the population of Japan in 1945 (72 million people) was higher than the population of Bangladesh (67 million) and Pakistan (66 million) in 1970. That has changed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Bangladesh is projected to have 160 million people by 2010, Pakistan 171 million and Japan a mere 127 million as the world careens from a 1970 population of 3.7 billion to a projected 6.8 billion in 2010.

For more on atomic bomb names check out this Geoscience website from the Australian Government.

For more on the naming of storms, the World Meterological Organization has a great website. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cancer, Tobacco and The Movies

Recent news at YAHOO is predicting Cancer will overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010. As of 2002, it was already the #1 premature cause of death in the U.S. and the #3 cause of premature death in the world (per Cause of Death). The primary reason for cancer's growth in developing countries around the world is tobacco. For a great tobacco timeline check out

Unlike developing countries such as India and China, where smoking is on the increase, the trend in the U.S. for both incidence and death rates from cancer is down per the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer primarily due to three factors: a) a decline in smoking, b) a reduction in the use of hormonal replacement therapy and c) an increase in colon cancer screening. But cigarette smoking still accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. and involves not only the lungs but also the mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, kidney, uterine cervix and blood.

Smoking in the U.S. increased during the Great Depression (1929-1939), then increased even more during and following World War II (1939-1945). By 1949, 44-47% of all adult Americans smoked. The increase was apparent not only by the number of actors smoking on the movie screen but in the way those same movie stars would later die. The number of deaths by cancer of the top 10 actors and top 10 actresses by decade rose from 4 of the 1930s stars to 6 of the 1940s stars to 10 of the 1950s stars. Wouldn't it be nicer if we could all go the way of Katharine Hepburn, a top 10 star in both the 1930s and the 1960s who died of natural causes at the age of 96? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Deadly is Neglect?

Question: Are you more likely to die if you are a neglected child or if you neglect to go to the dentist?

Answer: Neglecting your teeth will kill you more

In 2004, 230 died in the U.S. from tooth decay and gum disease; more female (144) than male (86). 187, or 81% were age 60 or older. During that same year, 202 died from neglect, abandonment or other maltreatment; 50% under the age of 1. 117 were males versus 85 females.

Parents, take care of your babies and teach them to brush their teeth! Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 5, 2008

Child Abuse and Murder: Spare The Rod And Spoil The Child?

Answer: The exact opposite is true.

The San Francisco Chronicle and recently reported the tragic story of an abused teenager who was shackled and repeatedly beaten in Tracy, California before he escaped. The woman charged with his kidnapping and torture admitted she beat the boy, partly because she had been told that was how to discipline him.

The misguided notion of beating weakness out of a child has Germanic roots going back to before Hitler was born, which Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller explored in an article published in the Journal of Psychohistory 1998. One could say the misguided child rearing techniques espoused by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber were partly to blame for World War II.

We can all thank Dr. Benjamin Spock from saving the world from more victims of child abuse. Although he specialized in pediatrics, he studied psychoanalysis for six years which made him the only practicing pediatrician of his time with that combination of training. In 1946 his book The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was first published by Pocket Books for 25 cents (Pocket Books is also the publisher of Cause of Death: A Perfect Little Guide To What Kills Us) and included the ground-breaking notion that holding and showing affection to children would not only make them happier it would make them feel more secure.

The opposite effect of a happy childhood is exposed in the excellent book Base Instincts - What Makes Killers Kill? In it Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus, M.D. points out "it is the interaction of childhood abuse with neurologic disturbances and psychiatric illnesses that explains murder." In the 150 murderers Dr. Pincus observed, 94% had experienced severe physical and sexual abuse as children.

If not for Spock, and other more recent good writers on better child rearing techniques, we might be experiencing a lot more murders in the U.S. than the 18,124 homicide deaths in 2005. Perhaps a good book on child rearing might be the perfect gift for anyone expecting a new baby in the New Year. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Man Eating Tigers

In 1937 Colonel Jim Corbett famously shot and killed a man-eating tigress in India who had killed and eaten 436 people. Her appetite for soft, slow moving flesh was the result of a bullet that damaged her teeth so maybe she was just getting back at her attackers. It is estimated 3 out of 1,000 tigers will attack people versus the 12.5 out of 1,000 humans who were involved in violent crimes in Wayne County, Detroit, Michigan, the city with the highest murder rate in the U.S. in 2005.

In 1986, the Indian government issued masks to groups of workers to thwart tiger attacks. Because tigers almost always attack from the rear, the thought was a mask worn on the back of the head would confuse the tigers enough to prevent attacks. This worked for awhile, until the smart cats figured it out. Of all sub-species of tiger, it is the Bengal which has gained the worst reputation as a man-eater. Approx. 80% of them live in India. According to this great website, if things continue as they are it is predicted the Royal Bengal tiger could be extinct by 2010, ironically the next 'Year of the Tiger.'

My wish would be that as much effort as goes into fixing Detroit's problems can be applied to saving the tiger.

Photo courtesy of Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Life Expectancy: How Bad Is Butter?

Answer: Not very if eaten in moderation.

As Julia Child once said "giving up butter means that in about two years you will be covered in dandruff." Julia cooked and ate well using natural, fresh ingredients and lived to a ripe old age of 91. She beat the 53 year average life span of folks born when she was in 1912 by 38 years. Maybe if we cook, eat and live like Julia Child did, we can beat the 2004 (the year she died) average life expectancy of 78 years by another 38 years and live happily and healthily well past our 100s.

The Food Guys weigh in on butter:

Julia Child mini bio:

Read more about life expectancy in the Cause of Death book

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can Corn Kill You?

Yes. Especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which can be found in soda pop, juice drinks, pancake syrup, fruit-flavored yogurt, ketchup and BBQ sauce, pasta sauce, canned soup, canned fruit and breakfast cereals. HFCS is a combination of glucose and fructose and the fructose part doesn’t generate insulin like other forms of sugar. That means you don’t feel full and can keep on drinking and eating until you are over weight. With the excess sugar and the weight comes diabetes which killed 75,119 people in the U.S. in 2005.

Corn was introduced to the Pilgrims by Native Americans in the 17th century and was celebrated at what we now know as the original Thanksgiving. Today, relatives of the first Americans now suffer along with Blacks and Whites from corn’s transformation in our food. Diabetes death rates vary by race from a high of 33.2 per 100,000 Black Americans to 25.9 for American Indians to 24.9 for Whites to a low 11.2 for Asian Americans.

Maybe we should have sushi for Thanksgiving this year!

All about Indians and Thanksgiving:

The corn/diabetes connection:

More on the corn/diabetes connection:

A fun corn documentary:

For more fun facts read the Cause of Death book

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Alcohol, Accidents and Holidays

Although more people tend to die in car crashes during the summer months (667 deaths over the 4th of July weekend in 2005 vs 563 over Thanksgiving that year), holidays are always a good time to be especially careful about drinking and driving. Young men age 15-24 experience the highest number of car crash deaths and, despite the fact that alcohol-related traffic crash fatalities have gone down from 60% in 1982 to 40% in 2004, alcohol continues to be a major cause.

If a car accident doesn't kill a young male drinking driver, his excessive alcohol consumption will start to take its toll in other ways within a few years time.

The American male hit hardest from alcohol-related causes is the Native American Indian. Between ages 25-44, American Indian males die from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 10.3 times more than Asian Americans (who have the lowest death rates), experience accidental deaths 5.7 times more and commit suicide 2.1 times more.

Thanksgiving, to me, means thanks for this beautiful land we live in, which was inhabited first by our fellow Native Americans. My Thanksgiving wish is that they don't end the holidays dead.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for traffic crash info:

CDC for deaths from select causes by month in 2005:

Cause of Death book chapters on Accidents, Suicide and Bad Plumbing for lots more

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Vampire Week Wrap-Up

With the vampire movie Twilight opening today, I thought it would be fun to do a week's worth of blogs on real life vampires.

On Monday I asked if you'd ever seen a vampire with freckles and by Tuesday I concluded that human vampires are just not nice people. Wednesday and Thursday I took a closer look at some creepy crawlies and their vampire tendencies.

So, in the end, which is the deadliest vampire in the U.S.?
Answer: The mighty mosquito (based on how many deaths they caused in 2004)

Mosquito: 92 deaths - West Nile(79), Malaria (8), Viral Encephalitis (5)
Tick: 12 deaths - Lyme disease (6), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (6)
Assassin Bug: 2 deaths - Chagas disease
Flea: 1 death - the plague
Vampire Bat: 0 or unknown (3 rabies deaths were probably due to dog bites)
Leech: 0
Lice: 0
Human/cannibal serial killer: 0 or unknown Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Deadly Are Assassin Bugs?

It depends on where you live.

In Venezuela, which has a population about 8% the size of the United States, the Assassin bug (also known as the kissing bug) caused 716 human deaths from Chagas disease in 2004, way more than the 41 who died there because of mosquito bites (35 from malaria, 4 from dengue fever and 2 from yellow fever). But in the U.S. that same year there were only 2 deaths from Chagas disease. The blood sucking creature that killed more North Americans was the mosquito with 92 deaths in 2004 (79 from West Nile, 8 from malaria and 5 from mosquito-borne viral encephalitis). Ticks also pose a threat killing 12 Americans from tick-caused Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever.

What is Chagas Disease?

What do killer mosquitoes look like?

What is Malaria?

What is Dengue Fever?

What is Yellow Fever?

What is West Nile Fever?

Want more cool bug photos?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fleas and the Plague: The Small Vampire That Could

The plague is still with us! 137 million people died from it during the major epidemics that swept the globe in the 6th, 14th and 17th centuries. That's 10 times more than the 13 million victims of Joseph Stalin's purges of his perceived enemies in Russia in the 1930s. In the U.S. today, 1 person died of the plague in each of 2004 and 2005.

According to the Rocky Mountain National Park, the plague is prevalent in wild animals and is still spread by fleas. Unlike the earlier plagues that killed 90% of those exposed, antibiotics can now treat the disease. But untreated bubonic plague is still fatal in 50% of all cases. That old adage 'fed wildlife most often results in dead wildlife' might just pertain to you!

If you want to go hiking in Washington or Oregon state, where some other vampires were recently filming the movie Twilight, here's a good source. Just steer clear of the wildlife!

Image from the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at Kansas State University Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Human Vampires Are Not Nice People

The inspiration for Count Dracula, in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, was Vald "the Impaler" who ruled Romania in the 15th century. He impaled hundreds of his enemies on stakes and displayed them in the town square.

If vampires are those who feed on the blood of the living, the closest thing we have in real life today are cannibalistic killers. According to the FBI, serial killings represent less than 1% of all murders (based on total homicide deaths of 18,124 in 2005, serial killings in the U.S. would be fewer than 180. That's about 118,000 fewer than the number of Americans who died as a result of accidents that year). Cannibal serial killers are even rarer.

Some famously disturbed cannibal serial killers are:
Andrei Chickatilo: born October 1936, died February 1994. Killed 53 people in the Soviet Union between 1978 and 1990.
Jeffrey Dahmer: born May 1960, died November 1994. Killed 17 people in Ohio and Wisconsin between 1978 and 1991.
Albert Fish: born May 1870, died January 1936. Killed 5+ people in New York between 1924 and 1932.
Hadden Clark: born April 1951. Killed 2-3 people in Maryland between 1986 and 1992.

For more information on the #11 cause of premature death in the U.S., see the Murder chapter in the Cause of Death book.

photo from wikipedia

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Ever See A Vampire With Freckles?

Probably not!

Freckles are a result of exposure to the sun, which is also the best source of Vitamin D. While exposure to the sun, especially for someone fair skinned, can result in melanoma, a lethal type of skin cancer from which 7,818 people died in the U.S. in 2003, lack of Vitamin D can weaken bones causing the deaths of 13,700 older Americans age 65+ who died from falls as a result of osteoporosis that same year. Vitamin D deficiencies are also thought to be the cause of some colon, breast and prostrate cancers, especially since higher cancer rates are found at higher latitudes where there is less sun exposure.

So, if vampires weren't eternal, they would be much more likely to die as a result of their sun avoidance, than their fair freckled sun loving relatives. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 14, 2008

Which kills more: a spider bite or lightning strike?

Between the 2 known species of spiders with enough poison toxin to kill you in the U.S. (the brown recluse and the female black widow), there were 58 deaths from 1999 through 2005, or an average of 8 deaths per year. In the same 7 year period, there were 365 deaths resulting from lightning. Out of the 46 lightning deaths that occurred in 2004, 10 were in Florida, the state with the highest number. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can You OD On Heavy Metal?

And I'm not talking about the music.

In a HOUSE rerun, a loving wife is slowly poisoning her husband with gold sodium thiomalate, an older arthritis treatment rarely used in the U.S., which raised the question: What are other dangerous heavy metals besides gold and how many people die from them?

The top 3 heavy metal contenders that lead to death are:

Arsenic which is found in cigarettes, along with a lot of other toxins. Cigarettes are estimated to kill 2.1 million per year in the world.

Lead (found in batteries, crayons, paint, ceramic glazes, lead crystal, balsamic vinegar, etc.) was a major component of air pollution from leaded gas in the 1970s. Air pollution has been linked to cancer, particularly breast cancer of which 41,316 people died in the US in 2005 and 548,000 died worldwide in 2007. According to a report by the World Health Organization, lead also leads to heart disease, gastrointestinal problems and anemia and was responsible for approx. 229,000 worldwide deaths in 2003 from heart disease alone.

Mercury is now found in high concentrations in fish from pollutants in water. We come into contact with Mercury from dental fillings, cosmetics, vaccines, thermometers and other medical devices. When the Chisso Corporation dumped mercury into Minamata Bay in Japan from 1932 to 1968, an estimated 1,000 deaths resulted from eating the toxic fish.

Gold is less of a threat as a heavy metal toxin. But, as a symbol of economic greed it may be responsible for more deaths and financial ruin than all the heavy metal pollutants identified above.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shakin' All Over

If doomsday scenarios don’t get people’s attention have a party! A planned preparedness drill for Los Angeles November 13th will gather Angelenos to participate in a disaster drill built around a mock 7.8-magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes per year. The last big quake there was the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in January 1994 which killed 33, injured 9,000, and displaced over 20,000 people. Compare that to the quake Monday May 12, 2008 in Eastern Sichuan, China. That magnitude 7.9 earthquake resulted in at least 69,185 people killed, 374,171 injured and 18,467 missing and presumed dead.

Some things we cannot control, but being prepared definitely can make a difference in how many people die.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your parents always warned you to look both ways ...

So, you’re alone, depressed, in the house with a loaded gun (16,750 deaths in the U.S. by suicide with a firearm in 2004) and you decide to go for a walk or a jog to lift your sprits, maybe with a new tune from Radiohead on your iPod and you, or the driver you share the road with, fails to pay attention.


You’re one of 5,976 pedestrians who died in 2004, most as the result of being hit by a car, truck or van.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, road runner rage is on the rise. So, look out, especially between 6-9 pm, the deadliest time to be a U.S. pedestrian!

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Slavery Still Exists

That is, slavery in the form of human trafficking.

Recent headlines have brought prostitution into the news from Craigslist cracking down on online soliciting to Elliot Spitzer escaping criminal charges for his involvement with a prostitution ring. But with an estimated 800,000 juveniles trafficked across international borders annually, and 250,000 child prostitutes in the USA, deaths from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to be high:

109,000 Worldwide STDs deaths in 2004 (excluding HIV which killed another 2.0 million in the world) with 90% from syphilis; 50 USA STDs deaths in 2005 (excluding HIV which killed another 12,543 in the US) with 94% from syphilis

Top 5 Reasons for juvenile prostitution:

  1. International rings and interstate crime operations traffic young girls with promises of employment and money
  2. Parents advertise and prostitute their children over the internet
  3. Runaways and homeless kids on city streets are recruited by pimps or engage in survival sex
  4. Drug pushers force addicted teenagers to prostitute themselves
  5. Gangs may require members engage in sex for money or other services

Top Origin Countries -where juvenile prostitutes are trafficked from (in alphabetical order):
Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, Romania, the Russian Federation, Thailand and the Ukraine

Top Destination Countries -where juvenile prostitutes are trafficked to (in alphabetical order):
Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey and the United States

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can The Cure Be Worse Than The Condition?

Migraines are a pain, in more ways than one; but did you know you are more likely to die trying to stop the pain than from the headache itself? There were 5 deaths reported from migraines in 2001 and 2 in 2005. Compare that to the number of accidental deaths from drugs (illegal and legal—including drugs prescribed for migraines) which increased 72% from 13,024 deaths in 2001 to 22,448 in 2005. According to a recent New York Times article, the rate of death caused by prescription drugs is 3 times the rate of death caused by all illicit drugs combined.

And that’s not all!

Scientific American shares the horrific but true story of a woman seeking treatment for her migraine, who opted for an alternative method of administering an anti-nausea drug by having it injected directly into the vein in her arm instead of her butt. Unfortunately the shot missed the vein and went directly into her artery. After her hand and forearm turned black with infection; she had to have it amputated. I would say that this is one time when the cure was definitely worse that the condition.

Gangrene photo courtesy of Charlie Goldberg, M.D.
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
San Diego VA Medical Center

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's Black And White And Red All Over?

Answer: The 40,283 American males who died from suicide and murder in 2005. Now that the first African American has been elected President of the United States, maybe blacks can teach whites how to avoid suicide and whites can teach blacks how to cut down on murder.
Note: Death rates are per 100,000 population with 18,416,886 blacks and 117,915,508 whites (including non black Hispanics) making up 94% of the total U.S. 2005 male population Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How Americans Use Guns

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the individual right to possess and carry weapons and, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, citizens need guns so they "can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police." So what did Americans do with their guns in 2005?
17,002 used them to commit suicide (out of 32,637 total suicides); 12,352 used them to commit murder (out of 18,124 total homicides); 789 accidentally shot and killed themselves with them (out of a total of 117,809 accidental deaths); 143 were used by private citizens in justifiable homicides (which would include shooting a burglar in your home - out of a total of 192 justifiable homicides in 2005). Given that the FBI reported the average dollar loss per burglary offense in 2005 was $1,725 - keeping a gun in the house to protect your assets seems a little like overkill. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tapeworms on House

Question: Can you die from tapeworms?
Answer: Yes

In a recent TV episode re-run, Dr. House removes a 25 foot long tapeworm from the stomach of a patient with a rare hereditary disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease -a disorder that affects the peripheral nerves running from outside the brain and spine. The tapeworm had been depleting the patient of B12 resulting in anemia. So how many people die from tapeworms, anyway? In the U.S., not very many. According to "heath a to z," there are several infections and disorders you can get from ingesting tapeworms. Of these, 6 people died in the U.S. from Cysticercosis in 2005 (13 in 2004) from the accidental consumption of tapeworm eggs. (for more on death from worms, see the Bugs chapter in the Cause of Death book). Tapeworm infestation can also result in vitamin B12 deficiency anemia from which there were 57 deaths in 2005 in the U.S. (47 in 2004). But B12 deficiency can also be caused by eating a strict vegetarian diet that excludes all meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs, according to the medline plus encyclopedia. (for more info on B12 anemia, see the Hormones chapter). The most likely cause of death for the patient would be her hereditary disease. In the U.S. 92 people died in 2005 from hereditary and idiopathic neuropathy (52 in 2004). For more info on this neuropsych condition see “other causes” in the Bad Wiring chapter).

For gruesome worm pictures see here:

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Polling Place

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A Lullaby Before You Die

I heard 2 rats die the night before last, killed by the owls in the creek behind my house who hunt for their dinner around 1 or 2 in the AM. Before the owl finishes off the rat, he always sings a little hooting song. Maybe, like the American Indians, he’s singing a song of thanksgiving to the rat’s spirit before he eats it. I’m sad for the rat but glad for the owl. The creature most likely to kill man, other than man, is the mosquito. In the world, an estimated 700 to 800 million people are infected with a mosquito-borne disease annually and over 1.2 million of them die from malaria alone. One of the mosquito’s favorite germ factory blood sources is the rat. Bill and Melinda Gates should be happy to know the owl is working towards their same goal of eradicating malaria, without the use of pesticides!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Can you be Scared to Death?

YES, although it's rare.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs when the heart develops an abnormal rhythm that causes it to stop beating - which is different from a heart attack where the blood flow to the heart is blocked. When SCD occurs in children or adolescents, it's more often due to a heart condition that was present at birth and is likely a genetic disorder called “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” which is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, triggered perhaps by vigorous exertion, or a shock to the system. In 2004, 139 deaths or 10% of a total of 1,282 deaths from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurred to those under age 25.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Deadly Vampire Bats!

It’s not just a Halloween story. Vampire bats do kill! 38 Warao Indians died recently in Venezuela from rabies spread by vampire bats. An estimated 55,000 people die annually in the world from rabies (most from dog bites). The highest number of reported rabies deaths are in Thailand, with 346 deaths per the World Health Organization (WHO) between 1994 to 2002 (most dog related). But in South America, news stories abound about breathing sound-tracking, blood sucking, death causing, vampire bats, with the highest number of rabies deaths being reported to the WHO from Brazil (119 deaths from 1996 through 2004).,9171,868420-1,00.html

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Can Cavities Kill?

Yes, especially if the cavity in question is the oral cavity commonly known as your mouth. The Center for Disease Controls (CDC) and other government agencies estimate total annual U.S. deaths from tobacco (inhaled through the mouth) at 438,000, obesity (food taken in by the mouth) at 300,000 and drug & alcohol abuse (commonly ingested in pill and liquid form though the mouth) at 55,200 for total deaths of over 793 thousand or approx. 1/3 of all 2.4 million annual U.S. deaths in 2005. Dental caries (commonly known as tooth decay or cavities), on the other hand, accounted for 4 deaths in 2004 (3 in 2001).

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Can Negativity Kill?

Yes, if you’re a pregnant woman with RH negative blood. Five U.S. babies died in 2004 specifically from RH isoimmunization (4 in 2001, 6 in 2002, 1 in 2003 and 7 in 2005). That’s 5 deaths out of 14,213 babies who died in 2004 from birth-related conditions other than birth defects (which claimed another 10,498). Those 5 deaths were likely preventable if the RH-negative mom had gotten a simple shot. If only it were that easy to eliminate other types of negativity.

For more on what causes babies to die see the chapter on Bad Birth. For more on RH incompatibility see the entry in MedlinePlus's medical encyclopedia (I know about it because I've had the shot).

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Busy Hands Are Happy Hands

0.8 Percentage of all U.S. suicides taking place at work (page 264 Cause of Death book). U.S. suicide rates increased 6% between 2000 and 2005 from a suicide death rate of 10.4 per 100,000 (17.1 for men and 4.0 for women) to 11.0 (17.7 for men and 4.5 for women). During the same period, according to the OECD, U.S. total employment rates went down 3.5% from 74.1 to 71.5. Let’s hope we’re not going back to 1975 when suicide rates were 12.6 per 100,000 (18.7 for men and 6.7 for women) and the employment rate was a low 63.1.,3352,en_2825_293564_1_1_1_1_1,00.html Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Struck Dead From Above

Question: Are you more likely to be struck down from above or below?
Answer: Look to the heavens. Lightning kills more in the
U.S. than snake bites

73 Average number of Americans killed each year by lightning over the last thirty years
52 Average killed by lightning between 1999 and 2005 (highest was 66 deaths in 2002)
12 Largest number of annual U.S. snakebite deaths between 1960 and 1990
12 Largest number of annual snakebite deaths between 1999 and 2005 (12 deaths in the year 2000)
6 Average annual number of U.S. snakebite deaths between 1999 and 2005

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Suicide Over Time By Sex and Age

Question: Do women kill themselves for lost love and men for lost youth?
Answer: Maybe
Male suicide rates are 3 to 4 times higher than that of females but men tend to check out later in life while women are more likely to exit at a younger age. Beside the difference in age, men and women seem to be impacted differently by external events. The peak period for American women to commit suicide between 1950 and 2005 was from 1970 to 1977 when their death rates were 6.5 or more per 100,000 females. The peak period for American men was from 1985 to 1991 when their death rates were over 20.0 per 100,000 males.

For more on Suicide see the Cause of Death book page 258

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To Wine Or Not To Wine

Question: How much daily wine is bad for you?
Answer: More than 8 ounces (1 cup)
Too much alcohol can lead to death from accidents, heart disease, cancer, alcoholic liver disease, and alcohol use disorder, to name a few, for a total of 21,634 alcohol-induced U.S. deaths in 2005 (19,815 in 2001). But a 2007
Netherlands study found that light alcohol consumption, compared to no alcohol consumption, was responsible for a 36% lower risk of death from all causes. Light alcohol was defined as 20 grams or less per day. Given that 5 ounces of wine contains from 12 to 14 grams of alcohol and an average wine bottle holds about 25 ounces, 20 grams is equal to about 1/3 of a bottle or 8 ounces of wine. As per the philosopher Aristotle, with respect to the enjoyment of pleasures: “temperance is a mean between the excess of intemperance and the deficiency of insensibility.”

Cause of Death book page 332

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Can You Really Die From Termites?

Answer: Yes
Intrigued by “Detox”, an episode of the TV show House, in which teenage Keith has signs of hemolytic anemia from acute naphthalene toxicity, which he got from exposure to termites, I wondered how many people die from this kind of thing. Turns out one can be exposed to naphthalene from mothballs, tobacco smoke, working in coal-tar production, wood preserving, tanning, or ink and dye production and from termites. And exposure to naphthalene can cause anemia which can result in death. In the US, 4,000+ people die per year (4,345 in 2001 and 4,336 in 2004) from non nutritional anemia (ie anemia that is not caused by iron, Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency), although most of the deaths are likely from inherited disorders rather than acute exposure. Still - maybe it’s time to call the exterminator!
Cause of Death book (page 214)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Killer Bears in Alaska

Question: If you live in Alaska are you more likely to die from a Polar or Grizzly Bear?
Answer: Grizzly. Between 1900 and 2002 there was 1 death from a polar bear, 6 from black bears and 48 from grizzly bears. The odds of dying from any bear are going down as the animals are threatened by extinction.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


Question: Are your glands or your brain more likely to kill you from stress?
Answer: Brain
Stress can cause your adrenal glands to overreact by producing too much cortisol which can result in Cushing’s syndrome (22 deaths in the
U.S. in 2001, 29 in 2002 and 34 in 2003). Stress can also impact the biology of the brain causing stress and adjustment disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD (29 deaths in 2001, 52 in 2002 and 51 in 2003).
If the solution to brain stress is exposure therapy (ie reliving the traumatic event) per a recent article in Science Daily, then the wild gyrations of the stock market could be both the cause and the cure!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Men With Guns Versus The Black Rhino

The Black Rhino is losing (primarily due to Chinese demand for its horn)!

178 # rhino poachers killed in Zimbabwe between 1984 -1996
2,685 # black rhino killed during the same period

Sources: International Wildlife Nov-Dec 1996 and page 85 Cause of Death book Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 13, 2008

70 Rats Times 70

QUESTION: What do rats have to do with the number 70?
ANSWER: There are at least 70 known rat-borne diseases, including bubonic plague, typhus and leptospirosis and a typical rat can have as many as 70 offspring during an average 3 year lifespan. (page 83) Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Falling Down

12% Percentage of people who die falling off ladders who took their swan dive in the month of October - the highest month of the year for ladder fall deaths (next to June). It's not just the stock market that goes down in the Fall. Be careful out there!

Cause of Death book page 61 and Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Death by Cloaking Device?

QUESTION: What parasite kills over 1.2 million people annually and uses a "cloaking device" to do it?
ANSWER: Malaria (page 247)

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's Deadlier: The Puffer Fish or The Shark?

Answer: The Puffer Fish

In Japan, 50 people per year, on average, die eating puffer fish (otherwise known as fugu or blowfish) vs 48 who died by shark attack in waters off the Pacific/Oceania Islands (not including Hawaii) between 1580 and 2003. (page 107 and 109) Sphere: Related Content


17 Age when testosterone levels hit their peak in young men; they slowly start to slide in the 30s and 40s (page 204)

Male Homicide Death Rates per 100,000 by age (worldwide)
Age 0-4: death rate 5.8
Age 5-14: death rate 2.1
Age 15-29: death rate 19.4 (when testosterone levels peak)
Age 30-44: death rate 18.7
Age 45-59: death rate 14.8
Age 60+: death rate 13.0
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Face It. We Can Go Anytime. But In So Many Different Ways!

Cause of Death is a great reference tool for writers, entomologists (some insects kill a lot of people) and anyone interested in health and death-related information. After all, we will all bite the dust, check out, buy the farm and kick the bucket but where we live, our sex, race, age, genetics and habits will ensure we will exit in our own unique way.

I can see this book being useful for people creating fiction where they need somebody to die, and fast.” - Cause of Death book review 'Where To Find Ingredients For Your Next Death Scene'

Death By Numbers

A Book In the Hand