Lead-contaminated soil and dust remain a primary hazard for mining-impacted regions around the world. Exposure to lead is linked to a range of negative health consequences like developmental delays in children. Residents and visitors in mining-impacted regions can practice health protective behaviors such as handwashing and avoidance of possibly contaminated areas to limit exposure. Health districts face the challenge of informing people about these recommended protective behaviors. The objective of this case is to describe the risk communication strategies employed by a health district and to evaluate residents’ perceptions of the risk of lead exposure in a mining-impacted region of northern Idaho. The case examination draws from risk communication literature, the experiences of the health district, and a community survey. The survey results suggest that appropriately tailoring health risk messages based on elevating recipients’ risk perceptions and efficacy levels may help to encourage protective behaviors. Because lead hazards pose dynamic risks in mining-impacted communities, it is also important to periodically update health risk messages through two-way information exchanges between experts and nonexperts. Lessons learned from this case can be applied to improve health through risk communication in other communities where lead hazards pose threats to human health.
Challenges and Opportunities for Communicating Lead Exposure Risks in Idaho’s Silver Valley
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Courtney Marie Cooper, Madeline Sarah Goebel, Valerie Therese Wade, Chloe Bradley Wardropper; Challenges and Opportunities for Communicating Lead Exposure Risks in Idaho’s Silver Valley. Case Studies in the Environment 5 February 2021; 5 (1): 1232759. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2021.1232759
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