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What health risks are we most concerned about?
What worries the population in Germany most about their own health? Pollution, germs in food, microplastics, resistance to antibiotics or residues of pesticides: these are just a few of the health risks to which we are exposed in everyday life. But how threatening are the individual topics perceived by the population? The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) provides information.
A recent survey by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) shows what Germans are most concerned about about their own health. The food was very positive. 77 percent of the population judge the food sold in Germany as safe. In contrast, environmental pollution, even before the consequences of smoking and alcohol, is perceived as the greatest danger. The results of the survey can be viewed in the "BfR Consumer Monitor 08/2018".
Pollution, smoking and alcohol
The three biggest problem children of the Germans are the consequences of pollution, smoking and alcohol consumption. 17 percent of those questioned see environmental pollution as the most threatening factor for their health. A team of scientists found in a large international investigation that every sixth death worldwide is caused by pollution. 15 percent consider the consequences of smoking to be the greatest danger. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in seven Germans dies from the fatal consequences of smoking. Eleven percent saw drinking alcohol as the greatest threat. In contrast, lack of exercise was seen as a surprisingly low health risk. Only six percent of the participants saw a lack of exercise as a greater health risk.
The population sees the greatest increase in health hazard potential in pollution from microplastics. In the last risk assessment six months ago, 45 percent of those surveyed stated that they recognized a health hazard in microplastic pollution. In the current survey, 56 percent were already concerned about this. According to the BfR, this 11 percentage point increase is the biggest change compared to the last risk analysis.
What are the dangers of microplastics?
There is already microplastics in the air, in drinking water and in food. This is shown by the current consortium study on microplastics, which was recently published by the Fraunhofer Institute. The consequences for health are largely unknown. "In order to assess the actual risk of microplastics in the food chain, we need more reliable data," explains BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel in a press release on the survey. The BfR is currently carrying out studies on the absorption of microplastic particles and the possible health effects resulting from them.
Many open questions about microplastics
"It is not possible to derive from the studies to date how many microplastic particles consumers actually absorb, for example when eating fish," writes the BfR. Microplastics have been demonstrated primarily in the gastrointestinal tract of fish. However, this is usually not consumed.
Antibiotic resistance, Salmonella and genetic engineering
Overall, 68 percent of the participants saw the increasing resistance to antibiotics as a threat. According to the BfR, people in Germany are also concerned about residues of pesticides (54 percent), salmonella in food (53 percent) and genetically modified food (50 percent).
Is our food quality declining?
Although 77 percent of the respondents generally perceive food in Germany as safe, almost half of all participants stated that overall food quality tends to decrease. Only 13 percent believed that the quality of food tended to increase.
The consequences of genome editing are largely unknown
The so-called genome editing, i.e. the targeted modification of the genome of plants, animals and humans, was perceived to be the least threatening of the risks inquired about. Only five percent saw it as a health threat. However, 87 percent of the participants stated that they had never heard of it or knew nothing about it. (vb)