Do Bike Helmet Laws Do More Harm Than Good?

All bike riders in Australia have to wear a helmet, regardless of age. The country has had a mandatory, universal helmet law since 1990. But...

All bike riders in Australia have to wear a helmet, regardless of age. The country has had a mandatory, universal helmet law since 1990.But could helmet laws actually harm public health? Piet de Jong, an Australian mathematician at Macquarie University, thinks so. Helmet laws have an obvious positive effect: namely, reducing the likelihood of a serious head injury in a bike accident. But, according to de Jong, that is outweighed by the fact that helmet laws mean people bike less, thereby reducing the amount of exercise people get, causing health problems like obesity.According to de Jong, bike helmet laws actually have pretty big net costs. Research has found that biking decreased by 20 to 40 percent in several Australian cities after their universal health law went into effect. Given his estimates of the health benefits of biking, de Jong estimates that "bicycle helmet laws would cost the U.S. $4.8 billion per year" if we enacted them here.As Cliff Kuang points out, helmets make a lot of sense for urban cycling. But a mandatory helmet law feels pretty paternalistic to me. And you don't see many helmets at the average Critical Mass ride. If all those people had to wear one by law, would they just bike less?You can download de Jong's study here.Photo from flickr user malouette (cc).

Cancer is still the second leading cause of death after heart disease for both men and women. The American Cancer Society predicts that 2020 will bring almost 1.8 million new cancer cases and 600,000 cancer deaths, but there's also some good news. The American Cancer Society recently published a report in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians stating the U.S. cancer death rates experienced the largest-single year decline ever reported.

Between 2016 and 2017, cancer death rates fell by 2.2%. While cancer death rates have been steadily falling over the past three decades, it's normally by 1.5% a year. Cancer death rates have dropped by 29% since 1991, which means that there have been 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths in the past three decades than there would have been if the mortality rate had remained constant.

Keep Reading

The Australian bushfires have claimed 27 human lives, an estimated 1 billion animals are feared dead, and thousands of properties have been completely decimated.

The fires were caused by extreme heat and dryness, the result of 2019 being the country's hottest year on record, with average temperatures 1.52C above the 1961-1990 average.

The area hit hardest by the fires, New South Wales, also had its hottest year on record, with temperatures rising 1.95C above average.

Keep Reading
The Planet

Dr. Nicole Baldwin is a pediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio who is so active on social media she calls herself the Tweetiatrician.

She also has a blog where she discusses children's health issues and shares parenting tips.

Keep Reading