Perception of Risks From Electromagnetic Fields: A Psychometric Evaluation of a Risk-Communication Approach

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Abstract

Potential health risks from exposure to power-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) have become an issue of significant public concern. This study evaluates a brochure designed to communicate EMF health risks from a scientific perspective. The study utilized a pretest-posttest design in which respondents judged various sources of EMF (and other) health and safety risks, both before reading the brochure and after. Respondents assessed risks on dimensions similar to those utilized in previous studies of risk perception. In addition, detailed ratings were made that probed respondents’ beliefs about the possible causal effects of EMF exposure. The findings suggest that naive beliefs about the potential of EMF exposure to cause harm were highly influenced by specific content elements of the brochure. The implications for using risk-communication approaches based on communicating scientific uncertainty are discussed.

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