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In my question about Asbestos in Chinese manufactured goods a user posted the following unreferenced claims in a comment:

  • Not only is there not one "asbestos" but several (at least 4) different minerals that go by that name
  • Several of them aren't "deadly" at all and the others only in specific applications
  • The blanket banning of asbestos was a major hoax, had nothing to do with health reasons
  • The dangerous forms were already gone from the market well before the ban was put in place
  • Dangerous forms were already gone from the market ... after pressure from companies selling alternatives
  • A thermos especially that has some white asbestos (the only kind possibly still used somewhere)
  • A thermos especially that has some white asbestos ... in its inner lining is completely harmless even were the asbestos to be released
  • White asbestos is non-toxic
  • Even were it used as a stiffener in some plastics (as you suggest talking about toys) there's be no health risk
  • In fact it may well be less of a health risk than the alternatives that have replaced it

That's a total of 10 unreferenced claims in the space of two comments and was nicely upvoted by three people who obviously think this site requires answers in the comments section and that unreferenced claims are good enough.

There was a comment provided by a mod - but tell me why its worthwhile to keep the above comments there? Why wasn't this rubbed immediately, especially as the user involved has plenty of experience on this site?

Can answers be provided in the comments section, can unreferenced comments be made anywhere on this site including in the comments section?

I would flag these comments however certain mods on this site seem to think that my flagging is excessive and since they have already decided to comment on this question I don't want to risk being called heavy-handed in my flagging as has been claimed previously.

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My original intent was to remove the comments after giving the user some time to either self-delete or back up his claims. I agree that such unreferenced claims in comments are a problem and my impression is that some users use them to avoid downvotes and the citation-requests that would appear if they would write the same things into answers.

I personally think we should make it a general policy to remove significant claims in comments, as the system is not set up to allow proper voting on those claims. Though I would not want to remove the occasional comment that makes clear that the information in it is unreliable, but nonetheless may be useful for other people searching for an answer.

In the end I did not delete the comments because we don't have a policy about such comments yet and I wanted to take it to meta to discuss this issue. I didn't get around to do that so I'm grateful that you posted this to meta.

Update:

I have now removed the comments in question, as nobody objected against this policy and I will continue to remove other blatant examples.

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    This guy does this quite frequently, adds long comments with claims (good or otherwise). Their (his/her) large number of downvoted answers may be the reason behind this behavior. It's acceptable if this is the first time, but the softly approach only serves to teach bad people to use the same behavior; note the large number of upvotes the comments have, even though it brakes 2 fundamental rules. 1) We don't allow unreferenced claims on this site 2) Comments aren't the place for answers – going Sep 19 '11 at 5:41
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    It's also rampant across the site and regularly goes unchecked. My point is people are getting away with it and it's compounded by the fact that we are supposed to be a skeptics site, yet people make spurious claims in comments and they get upvoted. – going Sep 19 '11 at 5:44
  • @Fabian: I agree with this, particularly the last half of your second paragraph where you express that you don't want to remove comments that help others research an answer -- erring on the side of caution and leaving the comments there for a while definitely seems reasonable (and helpful) from my perspective, and I've found some comments to be very helpful (and I do hope that this user, or some other user, does eventually find references and provide an answer that can replace those comments). The issue is "time limit" and I'm strongly in favour of making it as long as possible. – Randolf Richardson Sep 19 '11 at 17:07
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I tend to agree that in this particular case, the comments should either be removed or combined into an answer -- they bring up too many issues in a form (comments) that isn't suited for them.

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