Perceived risk, concerns and unexplained medical symptoms associated with different sources of electromagnetic fields by the general public and professional workers
01 / 2008 - unknown
This project aims to study the determinants of perceived risk and concerns of the public and of professional workers of different sources of EMF: those perceived to be hazardous and those perceived to be non-hazardous. We will focus on aspects associated with the technologies itself (e.g. perceived consequences, perceived exposure, voluntariness of exposure), on characteristics of the people, i.e. general public and professional workers (e.g. knowledge about the risks, perceived benefits of using the technology, attitude toward technology) and on social aspects (i.e. trust in authorities, and reactions toward the measures taken by authorities). Research questions are:1)How do the general public and professional workers perceive the health risks of several technologies with EMF and which aspects of these technologies are related to a higher perceived risk?2)Which individual differences within the general public and within professional workers are related to a higher perceived risk of EMF? What are the differences between members of the general public and professional workers?3)What is the prevalence of unexplained medical symptoms attributed to exposure of EMF among the general public and among professional workers and what is the relationship with participants evaluation of and perceived risk of EMF sources?4)What is the relationship between the societal context (e.g. actions as a reaction on people s concerns)and perceived risk including affective reactions and unexplained symptoms? Electrical power and mobile communications deliver enormous benefit to society, but there are concerns whether the electric and magnetic field (EMF) emissions associated with the delivery of this benefit are linked to cancer or other health hazards. The perceptions of the public about the risks of technologies often are discrepant with the risks as assessed by experts. Aspects not included in the risk assessment, such as familiarity with a hazard, and perceived lack of control have been used to clarify the great public fear for some low probability hazards and public indifference toward some technologies that hold high statistical risks. While in earlier days, this discrepancy with assessed risks was seen as irrational, the current understanding is that a narrow technological definition of risk should be supplemented with these softer values. In this broader view of perceived risk, somatic reactions or unexplained complaints such as dizziness and headaches can also be considered to be part of or related to perceived risk and are shown to have been attributed to being exposed to EMF.This project aims to study the determinants of perceived risk and concerns of the public and of professional workers of health consequences of exposure to different sources of EMF. In particular not much is known about concerns of professional workers of being exposed to EMF. In this project we will be able to compare perceived risk and health concerns about EMF of the general public and professional workers. We will focus on aspects associated with the technologies itself (e.g. perceived consequences, perceived exposure, voluntary exposure), on characteristics of the people, i.e. general public and professional workers (e.g. knowledge about the risks) and on social aspects (i.e. trust in authorities, and reactions toward the measures taken by authorities). This proposed project will have three parts. In part 1 we will explore the topic of study further using focus group interviews because more need to be known about ideas of people about the more recent sources of EMF. Part 2 is a large scale survey among the general public and professional workers to measure and determine aspects associated with perceived risks, concerns and unexplained symptoms attributed to being exposed to EMF. In part 3 using scenarios in an experimental setting we will study the effect of several aspects of scenarios in which people are exposed to EMF in more detail. In this project we collaborate with occupational physicians and several well known researchers on risk perception. Our research group consists of researchers with expertise about risk perception and risk communication as well as occupational health. Our group has considerable experience with the research methods to be used.