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Reactions to natural and man-made radioactive threat

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Material Information

Title:
Reactions to natural and man-made radioactive threat
Series Title:
Quick response research report ;
Physical Description:
10 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Gibbs, Margaret S
Belford, Susan
University of Colorado, Boulder -- Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
Publisher:
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado
Place of Publication:
Boulder, Colo
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Radioactive pollution -- Psychological aspects   ( lcsh )
Radiation -- Psychological aspects   ( lcsh )
Genre:
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (p. 10).
Statement of Responsibility:
Margaret Gibbs, Susan Belford.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001982841
oclc - 281847278
usfldc doi - F57-00009
usfldc handle - f57.9
System ID:
SFS0001090:00001


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Full Text
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Reactions to natural and man-made radioactive threat
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1986.
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NaturalHazardsResearchandApplicationsInformationCenterCampusBox482UniversityofColoradoBoulder,Colorado80309-0482 f. REACTIONSTONATURALANDMAN-MADERADIOACTIVETHREATMargaretGibbsSusanBelford1986QuickResponseResearch Report#06This publication is partofthe Natural Hazards Research&Applications Information Centers ongoing Quick Response Research Report Series. http://www.colorado.edu/hazardsInstituteofBehavioralScience#6 (303) 492-6818

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Psychologicalresearchontheeffectsof contQminQtion have shown thatpeopleareadverselypsychologically affected byknowlegethattheircommunitieshavebeen contaminated(Gibbs,1986;Baum,Gatchel & 1983).Specificpsychologicaleffectswhichhavebeenlinkedtotoxicexposureincludedepression(Gibbs. 1986). andagrowingdistrustofgovernment(Levine.1982).Amediatingvariableofvictim'sreactionsto toxic contaminationiswhetherornotthey can specify1acausalagentoftheirmisfortune.Ithasbeensuggestedthatthosewho see adisaster as naturallycausedtendtobelessadverselyaffectedthan thosewho seetheirtroubles as causedbyhuman acts. Theformergroupismorelikelytoaccepttheirsituation as anunfortunateinevitability.whilethelattertendtofeelangryanddistrustfultoward the causalagents(Edelstein.1986).Such conclusions aregenerally made fromgroup comparisonsand offindings acrossstudies. It is notgenerallypossibleto find agroup of peoplewhohavebeenormaybeexposedtotwosimilarhazards.one ofwhich isnaturally-causedandone of whichishuman-caused.Asituationofthiskind exists forthe

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oNew York.Thistownisin a regionwithundergrounddeposits o uranium. When thissubstancedecaysitreleases a radioactive whichcanbecometrapped1nhomes,releasingurtherradionactiveproducts.Someresearchers eel thatradon1nhomesandbuildings is oneothe ch1e causes o lungcancer.Residents can determine whether ornotradon gas1Sa problem1nthe1rhomesbyhavingthemtested,but ew havedoneso.Mostresidentscouldthus view themselvesaspotentiallyatrisk.Thissituationreceivedwidemediacoveragebeginningaboutourmonthsbeorethisstudy,withindingspublishedshortlybeorethepresentstudyindingabout 25% o Warwickhomesin needoradonremediation.Atthesametime, Warwick residentshavebeenthreatened With anothersource o environmentalhazard.Planshavebeenmadetodumpradioactivelycontaminatedsoilintheborderingtown. WarWick residents ear thatthiswillleadtoradioactivecontamination o theirsharedwatersupplyandthustopotentialhealthhazards.Arearesidentshaveormedactiveprotest andmuchpublicityhas ocused ontheissue.These two hazardsaresimilarinthatboth

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involvepotentialradioactiveexposurewith 3Qccompanying healthrisks.Anothersimilarityisthatregardingbothsituations,themaJorityofresidentsdidnotknowiftheywereorwouldbe exposed tothetoxic.Themaindifferenceofinterestbetween these situationswhichwashypothesizedtobeanimportantdeterminant of psychosocialreactlonwas thepercelved cause.Humanactions,particularlygovernmentaldecisions,aretheperceivedcauseofthedumphazard:radongasin homes isperceivedasanaturallyoccurringsituation. Method SubJects SubJectswere73 Warwick residentswhoreturnedaquestionairemailedtotheir homes. Therewere20 males and53femaleswithameanage of44. Theyrepresentedawiderangeofeducationalachievementfromsomehighschooltograduateandprofessionaldegrees,withapproximately obtaininglesethanan undergraduate degreeand 50% obtaininganundergraduatedegreeorhigher. Warwickan average of 20years.TheyhadresidedinTherewereno

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childrenin 47%of the homes, whiletherest of thehomesincluded1to5childrenwithamodeof2.ProcedureAonepagequestionaire was developedto assess attitudinalandpsychologicalinformationregardingthetwopotential threats toWarwickresidents. Itbegan with abriefintroductionto thepurpose ofthestudyandidentifiedthe researcher, includinganinvitationtocallwithquestions thesubJects mighthave.It was organized so thatquestionsabouteachofthesituationswerewordedinparallel,withidentical response alternatives.SubJectswere to checkofftheir responses andfillindemographicinformation.Inadditiontheywereinvited to includeanycommentstheyhadonthebackofthesheet. Thequestionairewas sentto270householdsrandomlyselectedfromthe Warwick phone directory,addressedto "residentsof:".Aself-addressedenvelope was included.Ofthe270questionaires,11werereturnedundeliverableand73completedquestionaireswerereturned, 28.2%. forareturnrateofMaJorexperimentalhypothesesofthestudyare

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basedontheperceivedcauseofthepotential toxics. It wasexpected thatsincetheradioactivedump was regarded asa potentialhazardduetohumanaction,in comparison tothenaturallyoccurringhazard,subJects would bemoreconcernedaboutit, would regarditas dangerous, would bemoreemotionallyaroused(particularlyangry>aboutit, would be moreawareof theproblem,andwouldrategovernmenthandling oftrie issueaspoorer.Anotherpurposeofthisstudywastoobtaindescriptivedatatoclarifypublicopinionandbehaviorregarding problems. Results SubJectshadbeen asked to check offtheirreactiontotheproposedradioactivedump.TheoverwhelmingmaJorityreportedbeingopposedtothedump.Theremainingrespondentsreportedbeingindifferent;noneindicatedthattheywere favor.ThemeansoftheirLikertitem responseswerethe portionofthescalethatshowedthemtobe"very"awareoftheproposeddump, "hlghlyconcerned" aboutit,Viewinglt as "highly"dangerous,andratlnggovernmenthandlingofthesituationas"poor."5

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SubJects hadalso been asked to indicate whetherthey had testedtheirhomesorgeologicallyoriginatingradon.Fewresidents indicatedthatthey had done so. Most (55%) simplychecked othat they had not,whiletheremaining 41% checked"no,butconsideringit."The mean Likertlevelsor all subJectsshowedthattheywere"moderately" aware onaturally-occurringradon,were"moderatelyconcerned"about it,saw it as "very"dangerous,andratedgovernmenthandlingotheissue as "poor."Dependent t-tests wereperormedon sUbJecta' responsesacrossthetwotoxicsituationsto assess thehypothesesconcerningsourceocontamination.predicted,subJectsviewedthedumped toxicas moredangerousthanthenaturally-occurringtoxic (t(n69)As =5.30.p < .001).Theywerebothmore aware
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checklistsofemotionsand asked tocheckoffthe theyhad felt abouteach of thetoxicsituations.Theycheckedmoretotalemotionsinrelationtodumpedradonthaninrelationtonaturalradon(dumpedmean=3.0,naturalmean=1.9,t(n72,7.34,_P< 001)Table1 shows thenumberofrespondentsthat eachemotionregarding each NotethatsignificantlymoresubJectsindicatedthattheyfeltangry,upsetand furious aboutthedumped toxic than.aboutthenatural toxic. Discussion SUbJects'responses indicated that they view eachofthe toxic situationsasapotentialdanger= 7about which they were concerned.On achecklistofemotions,theytendedto use themoreintense todescribetheirreactions,ratherthanthose which would have suggestedthattheyminimizedtheproblema.Theassumptionthat most hadnottestedtheir homes fornaturally-occurringradon was confirmed. Asa result, at thetimetheycompletedthequestionaire, respondents likely viewedeach of the contaminants asa potential risk towhichtheycould

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beexposed.Atthe same time,one o these riskswas naturally-causedwhiletheotherwasman-made.SUbJectsconsideredthe man-made risktobepotentiallymoredangerous,andogreaterconcern.Theywerealsomoreemotionally bythemanmadehazard,particularlyendorsing indicatingthattheywereupsetandangryregardingit.Theseindingssupportthehypothesisthatperception o humancausationleadstogreaterdistressandangerthandoesperception o naturalcausation.Alsotheactthatdifferencesin affective arousalappeared or highlynegatively chargedemotions suggeststhatthere1Sgreaterpotential or longterm stress reactions rom theanticipateddump.Althoughmostrespondentsdidnotknow 1 theyhad a problemwithnaturally-originatingradon,theirlackoknowlegedidnotnegatethepossibilitythatthegas was currentlyintheirhomes.Thus their lowerlevels o expresseddistressm1ght1nparthavebeenduetodenial.Evidenceor some use o thisdeenseisthatsofewsubJectshavetestedtheirhomes,preventingthemselvesrom even knOWing if

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remediation is warranted.Responding residents.ay havebeenmoreaware of thedump because whileboth issues receivedmedia exposure, thecoverage of thedump was more extensive 9andemotional. At thesametime,it is possiblethat coverage of thedumpreflectsthepsychologicalreactionsofthequestionairerespondents,buton asocl.etal level. WhilesubJects ratedgovernmenthandlingofboth situations inthe"poor" range, there was a difference their means,fallingmuchcloser to a"verypoor"ratinginthedumpsituation.ThustheangerexpressedbythesesubJectsandinthemediamaybeevokedbythepresence of anobJect of blame.

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Baum, A.T., Gatchel, R.J., Schaeer, M.A.(1983).10 Emotional, behavioral,andphysiological eectsochronicstressat ThreeMileIsland. Journ.lEdelstein, M. (1986).Psychosocialimpactsotoxicexposure:an overview. 761-775, Utrecht:VanArkel Gibbs, M. (1986). Psychologicalimpacts otoxic exposure.805-815,Utrecht:VanArkel. Boston:LexingtonBooks.