What does “may” mean?

I saw an AP news story today the starts: “Silver dental fillings contain mercury, and the government for the first time is warning that they may pose a safety concern for pregnant women and young children.” What does “may” mean in this case? Does it mean that for some people there is a safety risk? that there some weak scientific evidence that everyone is at risk? No and No.

These sort of news stories are very popular: coffee may increase risk of cancer, breast implants may cause autoimmune disease, Clinton may drop out of race this week, … Is this news? News today not about facts or things that actually happen but more about things that might happen or might be happening but we don’t know or cannot know. The list of such things is infinite, but the truth of them is never shown. In fact, in most cases, these “may” statements turn out to be false.

So what is the real story about silver fillings? It turns out that someone sued the FDA and to settle the lawsuit the FDA put a warning on its website. My headline: FDA declarations now decided in court not in laboratory.

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