Project: Awareness and Perceptions of the Risks of Exposure to Radon in Homes
This new interdisciplinary research project aims to inform the development and implementation of the Department of Health (DH) radiation protection policy through a population-based study of people’s awareness and perceptions of the risks of radon in the home, and their health-protection behaviours to reduce radon levels. It will examine the way in which differentially affected groups react to the risks of radon in their own homes, and how this interacts with the wider social and institutional context.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in rocks and soils (e.g., granite) which may be harmful for people’s health. Radon is now recognised to be the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking. Because of the health risks of radon in homes, the UK Government has since the mid-1980s been running a number of campaigns with varying levels of success. Recognising that a central approach to risk communication has only led to a small number of households taking remedial action, a more locally-directed approach was piloted in partnership with three local authorities, which acted as the public face of the campaign. The results of the pilot programme were impressive both in terms of the numbers of people who sought advice from the local authority and the numbers that were apparently committed to carrying out remedial action. As a result it was decided to roll out the locally-directed approach to other local authorities in England. The radon roll-out programme officially started in 2001 and was completed in 2005.
People’s awareness and perception of the risks of radon vary according to exposure.
Recent radon awareness initiatives have an effect on people’s radon-related perceptions, awareness, and remedial action.
The effectiveness of radon policy and communication initiatives is mediated by social factors, such as social capital and trust.
The proposed project is innovative in that it combines methodologies from social epidemiology, health-services research, social psychology, and the field of risk perception and communication. It will try to bring together the risk perception and policy research fields by examining how local radon policies influence people’s attitudes and behaviour.
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