5 Scariest Modern Health Risks

From famines and floods to wars and pandemics, the world has always been a dangerous place. But these days, the very innovations we rely on for modern convenience may be ruining our health. Is your cell phone or iPod making you sick? Could your deodorant, antibiotics, or bottled water be toxic? Read on to uncover the five most frightening modern health threats.


Over the past half-century, scientists have developed more than 150 varieties of antibiotics. But our overreliance on them is resulting in antibiotic resistance—a widespread issue that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is "one of the world's most pressing public health problems." Since some bacteria that antibiotics used to easily eliminate are becoming resistant, certain ailments, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and ear and sinus infections, are becoming harder to treat. Even more frightening is the emergence of superbugs—antibiotic-resistant staph infections, including MRSA, that can be life-threatening.


Antiperspirants first gained popularity in the 1940s and '50s, and since they're considered an over-the-counter cosmetic, people gave little thought to the risks that might result. But a 2003 study of more than 437 cancer patients found a link between early diagnosis of breast cancer and antiperspirant/deodorant use. Although several organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute, believe the evidence is inconclusive, some scientists maintain that certain substances in deodorants, such as parabens and aluminum chloride, enter the bloodstream and/or accumulate in breast tissue, stimulating the growth of cancerous breast cells.

Plastic bottles

At this point, plastic bottles are so ubiquitous that it's hard to imagine they could be toxic. But many are made with bisphenol A (BPA)—a chemical that has been linked to cancer, the National Institutes of Health recently announced. A new report by the U.S. National Toxicology Program also revealed that BPA may cause behavioral changes in infants and children, and trigger the early onset of puberty in females. Although further investigation is needed, several large retailers, such as Wal-Mart and CVS, have started pulling these containers from store shelves.

Nail polish

It may look benign, but some brands of nail lacquer (not to mention sunscreen and hair spray) contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Although the chemical improves the staying power of polish, DBP has been linked to cancer in lab animals and to reproductive impairments in boys who have been exposed in utero. In response to increasing pressure from consumer watchdog groups, top-selling brands like Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon, and L'Oreal have already begun removing DBP from their products.


Sport utility vehicles continue to be hugely popular, but these car/van hybrids may be too dangerous to drive. According to experts, their high center of gravity makes them prone to roll over in accidents, their oversize dimensions make them more liable to kill other people in standard cars struck by them, and their roofs are more likely to be crushed in a rollover. What's more, these gas-guzzlers contribute to CO2 pollution and global warming, which comes with a laundry list of additional health risks.