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Über dieses Buch

One of the greatest challenges facing those concerned with health and environmental risks is how to carry on a useful public dialogue on these subjects. In a democracy, it is the public that ultimately makes the key decisions on how these risks will be controlled. The stakes are too high for us not to do our very best. The importance of this subject is what led the Task Force on Environmental Cancer and Heart and Lung Disease to establish an Interagency Group on Public Education and Communication. This volume captures the essence of the "Workshop on the Role of Government in Health Risk Communication and Public Education" held in January 1987. It also includes some valuable appendixes with practical guides to risk communication. As such, it is an important building block in the effort to improve our collective ability to carry on this critical public dialogue. Lee M. Thomas Administrator, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Chairman, The Task Force on Environmental Cancer and Heart and Lung Disease Preface The Task Force on Environmental Cancer and Heart and Lung Disease is an interagency group established by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 (P.L. 95-95). Congress mandated the Task Force to recommend research to determine the relationship between environmental pollutants and human disease and to recommend research aimed at reduc­ ing the incidence of environment-related disease. The Task Force's Project Group on Public Education and Communication focuses on education as a means of reducing or preventing disease.





1. Principles and Guidelines for Improving Risk Communication

In response to rising public concerns about health and environmental risks, government agencies have increasingly sought improved means for communicating risk information to individual citizens and public groups. Part of this increased interest in risk communication stems from current difficulties and frustrations (Ruckelshaus, 1983, 1987; Sandman, 1986; Thomas, 1987; Press, 1987; Covello and Allen, 1988; Slovic, 1987; Davies et al., 1987). Government officials are often frustrated by what they perceive to be inaccurate public perceptions of risk and unrealistic demands by the public for risk reduction. Citizens are often equally frustrated by the government’s seeming disinterest in their concerns, unwillingness to take action, and reluctance or unwillingness to allow them to participate in decisions that intimately affect their lives.
Vincent T. Covello, David B. McCallum, Maria Pavlova

Perspectives on Government Risk Communication


2. The Federal Role in Risk Communication and Public Education

The interpretation and communication of risk factors are now recognized as essential parts of the process of risk assessment and risk management. In our society, it cannot be otherwise. Collectively, the public must decide which risks are acceptable. Individually, each person makes risk management decisions every day in the context of his or her life.
James O. Mason

3. Communicating with the Public on Health Risks

Communication with the public on health risks dates from ancient times. Early examples can be found in the Bible. For centuries, warning signs and labels have been in general use to inform the public about various risks to health.
Arthur C. Upton

4. The Role of Risk Communication in Environmental Gridlock

This is a particularly timely volume, given the growing difficulties that health and science experts, government officials, business representatives, and public interest groups are having with the communication of risk factors to the press and to the general public. Analysis of the risk communication process also is imperative in light of the increasing awareness that risk communication problems, along with several other factors, contribute to the general difficulty that we have in this country in forging coherent, lasting solutions to our most intractable environmental problems. Let us examine risk communication today in the context of this larger phenomenon and address how improvements in risk communication can help us out of the bind environmental policy-makers at all levels of government are experiencing. We face imposing obstacles in moving toward more effective risk communication strategies.
Christopher J. Daggett

5. Risk Communication: Moving from Theory to Law to Practice

Risk communication has become a central feature of public policy for dealing with health, safety, and environmental hazards in the United States and the European Community (EC). New laws in both industrial societies now establish an extensive set of risk communication duties for government and industry, and provide the public with various rights of access to risk information held by private firms and public agencies.
Michael Baram

6. Hazard versus Outrage in the Public Perception of Risk

One goal of risk communication is to produce in the audience the appropriate level of concern and action. That is, risk communicators sometimes want to tell people to take a risk seriously—wear a seat belt, quit smoking, cut down on fats, check their homes for radon or their water for lead and take action if the level is high. On the other hand, risk communicators sometimes want to tell people not to worry so much about a risk. One would expect that at least one of these tasks would be a simple one, but it turns out that they both can be very difficult.
Peter M. Sandman

Government Risk Communication Programs


7. The Government as Lighthouse

A Summary of Federal Risk Communication Programs
Since early times, certain activities have been undisputed as important functions of governments, such as conducting foreign relations and warfare and managing a monetary system. Another classic function of government has been to operate lighthouses, which can be considered one of the first and archetypical kinds of risk communication. A light or a foghorn indicates that danger is present. The lighthouse provides an interesting analogy for the various risk communication programs that the federal government has developed since the founding of the Republic.
Frederick W. Allen

8. Qualitative Risk Assessment

Experiences and Lessons
The purposes for presenting this chapter are twofold. The first is to discuss the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) programs that bear on the subject of health risk communication and public education. The second is to share some of ATSDR’s experiences and lessons gained from our health assessment program.
Barry L. Johnson

9. De Minimis Risk from Chemicals in Food

The concept of de minimis risk is based on the idea that certain risks involving exposures to carcinogens are too small to cause concern. If this idea has merit, it will require a real effort in risk communication to gain public acceptance. It will involve asking the public to unlearn certain fears concerning carcinogens that federal agencies are in part responsible for creating.
Robert J. Scheuplein

10. Interactions between State and Federal Programs

Milton Russell, Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said, “Real people are suffering and dying because they don’t know when to worry and when to calm down. They don’t know when to demand action to reduce risk, and when to relax because the health risks are trivial or simply not there.” He went on to note that failure in risk communication can have several negative effects, including (1) diversion of societal attention and resources from important health or environmental problems; (2) diversion of personal attention from real risks that can be reduced to insignificant risks; (3) unnecessary human suffering due to high levels of anxiety and worry; and (4) defensive indifference or the attitude that if everything causes cancer, why do anything?
Peter D. Galbraith

11. Interactions between Community/Local Government and Federal Programs

The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate both the risk assessment needs of local officials and the ways in which we can help other levels of government with the risk communication process.
Thomas Wilson

12. A White House Perspective on Risk Communication

The past two decades have ushered in a shift of almost revolutionary proportions in the study of health and disease. The preoccupation with infectious disease has been replaced with a heavy commitment to the study of chronic, life-threatening illnesses. Increasingly, more investigators have recognized that behaviors that place an individual at risk for developing physical illness seldom occur in isolation from other pathogenic activities. Although the public acknowledges that life-style and disease are related (e.g., smoking may be detrimental to your health), the fear of malign influences in our environment is so widespread today that the general public believes that it is those factors they cannot control that will bring about their early demise. Thus, a major concern is the presence of “unwanted” chemicals in our environment.
Alvin L. Young

Case Studies of Government Risk Communication


13. The Newark Dioxin Case

In November 1980, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development published a report (Dioxins—EPA-600/2-80-197) that summarized the then-current literature on dioxins, their formation, sources, routes of human exposure, and the like. An appendix listed companies that manufactured products that might form dioxins as byproducts. About 50 of these were classified as I or II—products most likely to produce dioxins—and about 125 as class III—dioxins less likely but still possible. This list subsequently became the basis for EPA’s National Dioxin Strategy.
James R. Marshall

14. A Landfill Case in California

This case describes a neighborhood problem in California that was one of the worst headaches for the California State Department of Health Services but now has developed into a most satisfying relationship with a local community. It illustrates that society’s outrage increases with the visibility and concentration of the population at risk.
Raymond R. Neutra

15. Phosphorus Release in Miamisburg, Ohio

At 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8, 1986, 15 cars of a 44-car CSX Transportation freight train derailed near downtown Miamisburg, which is in southwest Ohio, not far from Dayton. A tanker car containing white phosphorus caught on fire when holes in the side allowed air to enter (the material self-ignites upon contact with air).
Allan D. Franks

16. Individual Notification of Workers Exposed to 2-Naphthylamine

One of the areas of risk communication in which researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are involved can be classified under the rubric of individual worker notification (Schulte and Ringen, 1984). This type of risk communication pertains to informing surviving workers of the findings of retrospective cohort mortality studies. Over the past 25 years, both government and private organizations have conducted a variety of retrospective cohort mortality studies. The question has arisen as to whether the subjects of these studies should be individually informed of the results.
Paul A. Schulte

The Risk Communication Process


17. Helping the Public Make Health Risk Decisions

Making risky decisions is difficult, both for reasons of which we are aware and for those of which we are unaware (Fischhoff, 1988). Many decisions are fairly routine. It is rare to see someone transfixed, unable to decide whether to cross the street, put on a seat belt, or add some table salt. Through trial and error, we have figured out the right way to act and thereby avoid making these decisions deliberatively. When we develop these rules of behavior for ourselves, they become habits; when society provides them, they become traditions. Life becomes difficult with decisions such as those that risk analysts must make, where one must think the decision out from the beginning and get it right the first time, either because the action has irreversible consequences or because the feedback that life provides is so poor that there are no clear indicators to prompt mid-course corrections. How to respond to possible leaks from a local landfill, to the storage of World War II nerve gas in one’s county, to the health effects of shellfish or olive oil or of a spouse’s smoking—these are all tough decisions.
Baruch Fischhoff

18. Scientific Uncertainties and How They Affect Risk Communication

The past several years have seen a great increase in demand from the judiciary (Aqua Slide ‘N’ Dive Corp. v. CPSC; Industrial Union Dept. v. American Petroleum Institute; American Petroleum Institute v. OSHA) and executive agencies (Ruckelshaus, 1983) for both
More assessment of risks and the expected benefits from potential control measures in quantitative form.
“Better science” in the assessment of all kinds of risks to public health and safety.
Dale Hattis

19. Translation of Risk Information for the Public: Message Development

The development of messages that will inform the public about risks to their health and encourage them to take appropriate action is a vital step in the communications process. Because the abstract concept of risk is difficult to explain and comprehend, message development may be one of the most frustrating stages in the process. This frustration is shared by agency officials who are responsible for risk communication and face a public untrained to understand scientific methodology and technical terminology, as well as citizens who want concrete answers and action regarding health risks instead of uncertain responses. Barriers to effective communications include the nature of health risk science, limitations of the media and other communication channels, and public perceptions of risk. Therefore, the message development process must encompass how the public perceives health risk messages, characteristics of the target audiences and selected communications channels, principles for message design, and message testing.
Elaine Bratic Arkin

20. Reaching Target Audiences with Risk Information

The development of an effective communications strategy for almost any purpose depends on both the nature of the message and the nature of the audience that is the target of that message. An assessment of these two factors is necessary before communications channels can be considered. In communications programs that deal with risk, the following groups are most often the target audience: the science and/or medical community; federal, state, or local government administrators; legislative bodies; regulators; the media; a specific community; and the general public. In specific situations there are always a number of subgroups, but for general purposes these will serve to illustrate the appropriate means of communication.
James D. Callaghan

21. Evaluating Risk Communication

This chapter inquires into the potential and limits of evaluation as a component of risk communication programs in diverse institutional settings. We begin by discussing the roles of institutional setting and government in risk communication. Then we ask why risk communication programs need to be evaluated and what assessments may contribute. We next inquire into the ways in which implicit models and paradigms of risk communication influence the way we think about objectives and approaches. We examine the evaluation process for insight into effective means for organizing and conducting the assessment. Finally, we propose specific criteria to guide the evaluation of risk communication programs.
Roger E. Kasperson, Ingar Palmlund


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