More trouble with citations over at Salon.com

Mentioned earlier that Salon has some problems with fact-checking, especially checking the citations in factual pieces to ensure that the hyperlinked sources actually support what the authors claims.

To be clear: I am not making a claim here that the author’s general point is right or wrong. The problem they have at Salon (and elsewhere, surely, but Salon is a repeat offender), is that they post supposedly factual articles in which the authors hyperlink their assertions to source materials, and the source materials routinely CONTRADICT the precise point the author is making.

So here is just another example, from an article on the growing dangers of antibiotics abuse. The author plainly states that 1 in 5 hospital emergency department visits are prompted by adverse reactions to antibiotics.

photo 1

Even if you are not an expert in the field (I’m not), doesn’t that number seem a little high to you?

But, wait! There’s a hyperlink to the source, a report by the CDC. Problem is – as you’ve already guessed – the CDC doesn’t say 1 in 5 emergency room visits are for problems caused by adverse antibiotics reactions. The CDC report says that 1 in 5 drug-related emergency room visits were from adverse antibiotic reactions.

photo 2

How many emergency room visits are drug related? About 4% – 5 million of the 125 million annually (the number is going up, by the way) according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So that means that adverse antibiotics reactions aren’t responsible for 20% (1 in 5) of hospital emergency room visits. Adverse antibiotics reactions are responsible for 1 in 5 of 4% of hospital emergency room visits, or less than 1% of all hospital emergency room visits. Or in other words, the author’s assertion was off by more than a factor of 20, or exaggerated about 1900%.

That seems like a significant error.

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