Matters of Scale - Future of Risk

Number of people in Washington, D.C. who were murdered by anthrax poisoning between September 11 and November 9
Number of people murdered by other means in the same city during the same period
Number of U.S. residents who would die of anthrax in the coming year if the October 2001 rate (when anthrax became the top news story) continued
Number of children in Afghanistan that the United Nations estimates may die this winter from pneumonia and diarrhea
Probability that someone who flies once a month will die in a commercial airplane crash in the coming year in the United States (where concern about terrorism has cut flying sharply), if terrorists hijack and crash one plane every month
1 in 540,000
Probability of dying of a heart attack in the United States (where tens of millions of people fail to exercise or maintain healthy diets despite the risk), in the same year
1 in 400
Odds of a U.S. resident being killed by terrorists in a shopping mall, in the coming year, if the person spends two hours a week in malls and if terrorists destroy one mall (and everyone in it) each week
1 in 1,500,000
Odds of the average U.S. resident being killed in that year by cancer
1 in 600
Sources: Allan Lengel, "D.C. Views Differ on Post-Sept. 11 Crime Increase," Washington Post, 12 November 2001; CDC Confirmed Cases of Anthrax, Centers for Disease Control ; "AP News Anthrax Timeline," Associated Press, viewed 15 November 2001; Michael L. Rothschild, University of Wisconsin, "Terrorism and You?the Real Odds," Washington Post, 25 November 2001.