Falling Coconuts Kill More People than Shark Attacks: Facts


Picture Suggesting Falling Coconuts Kill More People than Shark Attacks
Falling Coconuts Kill More People than Shark Attacks

Story: 

Falling coconuts kill 150 people worldwide each year, 15 times the number of fatalities attributable to sharks.

Other Versions

1. Falling coconuts cause about 150 deaths annually

2. Coconuts kill around 150 people worldwide each year, which makes them about ten times more dangerous than sharks

Analysis:

Falling Coconuts kill more people worldwide than the number of fatalities attributable to Sharks, you might have read it online once at least. Various versions of the story say falling coconuts kill 150 people worldwide each year, which makes them 10 or even 15 times more dangerous than Sharks. The claims are not facts; it’s an urban legend that has been around since long time.

Origin of Story

In 1984 a paper published by Canadian physician Dr. Peter Barss’ in the Journal of Trauma with the title “Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts” documented an important preventable injury in tropical climates. Peter Barss described that a coconut palm would be around 35 metres high, which is like falling out of a 10-storey building. So he said it is possible that an unhusked coconut weighing 1 to 4 kg can blow a human head with a force exceeding 1 metric ton.

Barss studied 4-year trauma admissions to the Provincial Hospital in Papua New Guinea and observed that 2.5% of them were for those injured by falling coconuts, with at least two fatalities. Four patients with head injuries due to falling coconuts were described, two of whom required Craniotomy (surgical removal of a portion of the skull), and the other two died instantly. The study also mentioned that another main source of injury is people falling out of trees.

Exaggerated Claim

The aforementioned study did not mention falling coconuts cause about 150 deaths annually, or that the number is more than Shark attacks. After the study was published, claims about the number of deaths by falling coconuts were exaggerated and went on spreading to become an urban legend. An analysis by the Shark Research Institute mentions that a U.K.-based travel insurance company stated coconuts were “ten times more dangerous than sharks,” in an attempt to market travel insurance to individuals traveling to Papua New Guinea. The travel insurance company quoted their figures from an Australian web, which were based on other factors like trees being uprooted, etc.

So the figure of 150 deaths worldwide by falling coconuts seems to have surfaced from someone’s assumption, perhaps that elsewhere in the world there shall be similar number of coconut deaths (like in Papua New Guinea).

Hoax or Fact:

Hoax.

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Falling Coconuts Kill More People than Shark Attacks: Facts