We've all done it, saw a catchy title online and then passed the snippet of information we got from it on to others as if we had read and fully understood the full article.
I got a reminder of why I made reading and questioning the merit of articles a priority when I read a short post titled Exposure to powered toner doesn't significantly impact lung health: study.
First thing that popped into my mind (albeit a split second) was that I've heard people at work talk about the potential hazards associated with changing out the toner in the printer and how these concerns may be unfounded (i.e. the process is safe).
Second thing that popped into my mind was the word significantly in the title. Was this meant to be statistically significant or the opinion of the posts author?
Reading the full 162 word article gave me my answer.
Turns out there were no signs of lung diseases caused by dusts that are inhaled and deposited deep into the lungs (also known as pneumoconiosis) during the course of the referenced study, but there was an increase in the frequency of chronic coughs.
So although there was no no signs of lung disease, people did develop chronic coughs. For anyone who has had a cough from a cold that seemed to last forever I would suspect that they would think that having a cough that actually lasted forever to be fairly significant.
It just goes to show the importance of understanding what we are reading and questioning not only the methods used to arrive at the conclusion but also the terminology (or at least how the authors are applying the terminology) used in the article.