Which is scarier: murder, or an inflammation of the lung tissue? Because according to new numbers for 2010 (hey, science takes time) released yesterday by the Center for Disease Control, the latter has just bumped the former off the list of the top causes of death in the United States. It’s called pneumonitis, it can be caused by a multitude of irritants, and it’s officially more deadly than homicide–but still less deadly than heart disease, diabetes, the flu, and suicide.
For the record, the full list is as follows:
1. Diseases of heart
2. Malignant neoplasms
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
4. Cerebrovascular diseases
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
6. Alzheimer’s disease
7. Diabetes mellitus
8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis
9. Influenza and pneumonia
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease
14. Parkinson’s disease
According to this list, homicide is no longer one of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States–for the first time since 1945. Which is a sobering fact–and one that will hopefully bring attention to the fact that diseases (some of them preventable) are still dangerous and deadly.
Pneumonitis, the disease that knocked murder off the list, can be caused a number of factors, including smoking, mold in the air, working a job where toxic airborne chemicals are present, and even an overdose of aspirin. These particles then infiltrate the lungs and cause inflammation, which can make breathing difficult, and result in too little oxygen to the brain. And yet, if you asked many smokers or people who don’t wear protective face covering at work, they’d probably tell you that they’re more afraid of being murdered than of dying of inflamed lungs.
In fact, it seems like most people are more afraid that they themselves, or their friends of family, will be murdered, than they are of the heart disease, diabetes, or even pneumonitis…all of which are more likely to be their cause of death. We lock their doors, watch their backs, and do everything they can to avoid getting murdered, but don’t think twice about all the ways we may be killing themselves.
Obviously, murder is still pretty scary. And preventing or curing many of these diseases isn’t always matter of changing behavior–but some of them, including pneumonitis, are ailments that, with a little more awareness, may be less likely to end in death.