“It’s important to know [that these potentially dangerous chemicals are found in kids products],” Arnold Schecter, a public health physician at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, told Sohn. “And the next important thing is to find out how frequent this is, what levels are there and what sort of risk this poses. The big question is: What is the toxicity? And how much is getting into children?”

Those are good questions, basic hazard and exposure Risk Reporting 101 details necessary to help a reader make an informed judgment about the core question: is there a risk, and how much? But in many risk-related stories, those key details never show up, or they get buried at the end of the story after all the scarier more attention-getting stuff comes first.

I know journalists want attention for their work. I was an environmental reporter for years and did stuff just like this. But I also know that journalists want to get the basic facts right, and leaving out critical details like this is simply incomplete reporting. And no journalist wants their work to do any harm. But by alarming, without also fully informing, the choices the reader makes…about what products to use or what to eat or how to behave about all sorts of things…will be based on a dangerously incomplete picture.

David Ropeik is an instructor in the Harvard University Extension School's Environmental Management Program, author of How Risky Is it, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, creator of the in-house newsroom training program "Media Coverage of Risk," and a consultant in risk communication. He was an environment reporter in Boston for twenty-two years and a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists for nine years.