Matters of Scale - Threats to Security

When 3,000 people died in the "9-11" attacks, Americans went into deep shock and declared that "the world has changed." Here's how that event compares with some other recent and ongoing causes of death and destabilization in the United States and in other countries. All figures are approximate.

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In the United States . . .
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Killed by cigarette smoking, per year, on average
430,700
Killed by obesity, per year, on average
300,000
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Killed by motor vehicle accidents, per year, on average
43,200
Killed by guns (other than in war) per year, on average
34,000
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Killed by adverse reactions to prescription drugs, per year, on average
32,000
Killed by suicide in 1998
30,575
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Killed by accidental falls, per year
14,900
Killed by accidental poisoning, per year
8,600
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Killed by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, per year
7,600
Killed by drownings, per year
4,000
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Killed by choking on ingested objects, per year
3,000
Killed by the September 11 attacks in 2001
3,000
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In Other Countries . . .
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Sudan: Killed in the ongoing civil war
2,000,000
Cambodia: Killed by the Khmer Rouge massacre in 1975-78
1,700,000
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Congo: Killed in the ongoing war
1,700,000
Guatemala: Killed in army massacre of 400 Mayan villages in 1981-82
200,000
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Cambodia: Killed by U.S. secret bombings in 1970-73
150,000
China: Killed by pesticide suicides of despairing farmers, per year
125,000
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Japan: Killed by two atomic bombs dropped by U.S. planes in 1945
103,000
United Kingdom: Killed by obesity, per year, on average
30,000
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India: Killed by the Bhopal chemical spill in 1985 and aftermath
20,000
India: Killed by venomous snakes, per year, on average
10,000
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Brazil: Killed by malaria, each year
8,000
Bosnia: Killed by Serbian army massacres of Bosnian Muslim prisoners
7,000
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Sources: Cigarettes, obesity, and suicide: U.S. Centers for Disease Control; motor vehicle accidents: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; guns and drug abuse: National Center for Health Statistics; prescription drugs: Annals of Internal Medicine; falls, poisonings, and choking: National Safety Council; Sudan civil war and Congo war: State of the World 2002; Cambodia genocide and bombing: St. Petersburg Times; Guatemala massacre: BBC News; China pesticide suicides: Reuters; Japan atomic bombs: Uranium Information Center, Ltd (Australia); Bhopal: CorpWatch India; Brazil malaria and India snakes: World Health Organization; Bosnia massacres: "Massacre in Srebrenica," www.haverford.edu.