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The perceived health risks of indoor radon gas and overhead powerlines: A comparative multilevel approach

Poortinga, Wouter ORCID:, Cox, P. and Pidgeon, Nicholas Frank ORCID: 2008. The perceived health risks of indoor radon gas and overhead powerlines: A comparative multilevel approach. Risk Analysis 28 (1) , pp. 235-248. 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01015.x

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Radon and overhead powerlines are two radiation risk cases that have raised varying levels of concern among the general public and experts. Despite both involving radiation—a typically feared and unseen health hazard—individuals' perceptions of the two risk cases may invoke rather different factors. We examined individual and geographic-contextual factors influencing public perceptions of the health risks of indoor radon gas and overhead powerlines in a comparative research design, utilizing a postal questionnaire with 1,528 members of the general public (response rate 28%) and multilevel modeling techniques. This study found that beliefs about the two risk cases mainly differed according to the level of “exposure”—defined here in terms of spatial proximity. We argue that there are two alternative explanations for this pattern of findings: that risk perception itself varies directly with proximity, or that risk is more salient to concerned people in the exposed areas. We also found that while people living in high radon areas are more concerned about the risks of indoor radon gas, they find these risks more acceptable and have more trust in authorities. These results might reflect the positive effects of successive radon campaigns in high radon areas, which may have raised awareness and concern, and at the same time may have helped to increase trust by showing that the government takes the health risks of indoor radon gas seriously, suggesting that genuine risk communication initiatives may have positive impacts on trust in risk management institutions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
Uncontrolled Keywords: EMF; multilevel modeling; radon; risk perceptions; trust
Publisher: Society for Risk Analysis
ISSN: 0272-4332
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:48

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