Halloween's a scary time for people who have decided—or been struck by the cruel hand of fate—to bring forth into this world some of those little fat-fingered meatbags of undifferentiated id that we call children.
After all, there are sickos and perverts out there who orgasm in their sweatpants at the mere thought of hiding a razor blade in a Butterfinger, right?
No one's trying to kill your kids on Halloween. Last year, we spoke to Joel Best—the authority on the pervasive but entirely unfounded urban myth about tainted Halloween candy—who was getting a little sick and tired of no one listening to him, despite the fact that there hasn't been a single confirmed case of tainted candy picked up in the course of trick-or-treating. (All those news stories you see each year are either hoaxes or acts of homicidal parents trying to kill their own kids.)
Best noted that the "Halloween sadism" meme, as he calls it, peaked during the "Satanic panic" epidemic that swept the US in the late 80s and early 90s. And it was around that same time that some hospitals in the US began to offer up the services of their radiology departments in the name of safer candy.
The idea was that an X-ray machine might not be able to detect a cyanide-laced piece of candy corn, but surely it could pick up a needle hidden in the candy apples that no one ever, ever gives out.
Recall, however, that healthcare in this country is dangerously fucking costly. Earlier this year, finance news site NerdWallet compiled a rough list of X-ray costs to patients around the US, using data from OKCopay. It found that the national median for a chest X-ray was $100, though it can vary widely by venue and location. (A university hospital in Brooklyn charged $15, while an outpatient imaging center in Mountain View charged nearly $900.)
The point is this: X-rays are expensive, and they are not magic fun boxes for your snotty goons to scan their candy with.
In fact! A study in an actual medical journal called Veterinary and Human Toxicology examined the costs to hospitals of X-raying candy—all the way back in 1988.
Its conclusion? "[The] nation could be spending as much as $0.8-$1.4 million to screen Halloween candy." (Again, these are 1988 dollars, and $1.4 million is a drop in the bucket nationally. But it's also wildly unnecessary when there are Americans who can't afford to get their bones X-rayed while hospitals are willing to scan bags of candy!) The study also noted—and this should be no surprise if you've been paying attention so far—that "[of] the 394 X-rays taken in the three local hospitals, and the 669 taken in 18 outlying hospitals, no films were positive for hidden radio-opaque foreign bodies."
No razor blades, people.
The study authors also pointed out having a shit-ton of screaming mini-assholes crowding around the radiology department could cause a "disruption of vital hospital functions," and that kids are more likely to get hit by cars on the way to having their candy X-rayed than to receive poisoned candy. Recent stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration back this up: Halloween is one of the top three days for traffic accidents in the US, mostly caused by drunk drivers.
And so why, in 2015, are healthcare facilities such as the emergency department at Carolinas HealthCare System SouthPark still offering to X-ray bags of candy? Why, when we know that it is both a giant waste of money and time?
It's not just them. NextCare Urgent Care in Tucson is doing the same. Ditto with Virginia's Patient First Centers. The hospitals in Carlsbad, New Mexico, might not be getting in on the X-ray action this year, but one local courthouse is. And it goes on and on.
So if you'd like to partake in the frivolous use of healthcare dollars this year, drag your puling moppet down to the ER and breathe some new life into a ludicrous urban myth, passing down misinformation to your spawn and encouraging them to grow up mistrustful of a world full of infanticidal bogeymen.
Happy Halloween! Don't get hit by a car.