Psychological consequences of radon in the home

Citation
Psychological consequences of radon in the home

Material Information

Title:
Psychological consequences of radon in the home
Series Title:
Quick response research report ;
Creator:
Gibbs, Margaret S
Belford, Susan
Edelstein, Michael R
University of Colorado, Boulder -- Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
University of Colorado, Boulder -- Institute of Behavioral Science
Place of Publication:
Boulder, Colo
Publisher:
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
[5] p. : ; 28 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Radon mitigation -- Psychological aspects -- New York (State) -- Orange County ( lcsh )
Radon -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
Genre:
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Additional Physical Form:
Also issued online as part of a joint project with the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) Research Library's disaster mental health initiative.
General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"Institute of Behavioral Science #6."
Statement of Responsibility:
Margaret Gibbs, Susan Belford, Michael Edelstein.

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:
001985205 ( ALEPH )
39227610 ( OCLC )
F57-00029 ( USFLDC DOI )
f57.29 ( USFLDC Handle )

USFLDC Membership

Aggregations:
Added automatically
Natural Hazards Center Collection

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Format:
Book

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Full Text
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Psychological consequences of radon in the home /
Margaret Gibbs, Susan Belford, Michael Edelstein.
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Boulder, Colo. :
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1986.
300
[5] p. ;
28 cm.
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Quick response research report ;
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Cover title.
"Institute of Behavioral Science #6."
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Also issued online as part of a joint project with the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) Research Library's disaster mental health initiative.
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Radon mitigation
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NaturalHazardsResearchandApplications.InformationCenterCampusBox482UniversityofColoradoBoulder,Colorado80309-0482 PSYCHOLOGICALCONSEQUENCESOFRADONINTHEHOMEMargaretGibbsSusanBelfordMichaelEdelstein1986QuickResponseResearch Report#07This publication is partofthe Natural Hazards &Applications Information Center's ongoing QUIck Response Research Report Series. http://www.colorado.edu/hazardsInstituteofBehavioralScience #6 (303)492-6818

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Inline with thepurposeoftheBoulderworkshopindiscussingcommunicationofriskabouthazards,.thispaper will firstdiscusstheroleplayedbyasmallnonprofitenvironmentalagencyinconveyinginformationandassistancetothecommunityaboutradon.Thesecondpartofthepaper will reportbrieflyonpsychologicalfindingsrelatedtoradoninasamplefromthecommunity.Afterradon was foundinhighlevelsontheReadingPronginPennsylvania,communitiesinOrangeCountyinNewYork,alsosituatedontheProng,begantobecomeconcernedaboutpossibleradonlevelsin own community.TheseconcernsvereallayedformostOrangeCountyresidentsafterameetinginvhichscientistsfromtheNewYorkDepartmentofHealthandNYUspoke.Littleactualincidencedatawasreported,buttheimpressionvasgiventhattestsamplingintheareahadshovedverylowlevelsandthatradonitselfwasnotverydangerous.Forinstance,slideswereshownofattractiveAustrianwomeninaspasoughtoutforitshighradonlevel.OrangeEnvironment,asmall,strugglingnonprofitagency,decidedthatmoreextensiveradonsamplingshouldbeconductedinthearea,forthepurposeofassessingtheextentoftheproblem,mappingtheaffectedareas,andprovidingaffectedresidents with informationaboutdangersandmitigation.OrangeEnvironmentobtainedbatchratesfortestsfromamajorradontestingservice,andadvertisedthehalf-costservicestoresidentsthroughthelocalpaper.Resultsreportedinthis paper havebeenobtainedfromthissampleofindividualswhotestedtheirhomes.Findingsoftheradontestsindicatedthat ofthe120tests showed radonreadingsabovealevelof4picocuriesperliter,thelevelgenerallyacceptedasrequiringremediation.Therangeofreadingswasfromafractionofapicocurietoahighof60picocuries.Thus,althoughfindings were notattheveryhighlevelfoundinPennsylvania,OrangeCountyclearlyshowedasizableproportionofhomesthatneedremediation.Also,nospecialpatternofcorrelationbetweenreadingsandresidenceontheReadingProngappeared,meaningthatthereisabroaderneedtotestintheareathanpreviouslythought.Interestingly,thelocalnewspaperreportedthefindingsasshowinglittleproblem,andcontinuedtostatethattheradonproblemwaslimitedtotheReadingProng.Alongwiththetestresults,anexplanation ofthe meaningofradonlevelstakenfromadraftoftheEPA'sguidelines was enclosed.Inaddition,ameetingwasheldwith those testingtheirhomesat which remediationwasdiscussedby the staff of OrangeEnvironmentknowledgeableinthatarea,includingourenvironmentalphysicist.

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Individualsseemedtofindthismeetinghelpful.AnissueforanagencylikeOrangeEnvironmentiswhatroletoattempttoplayineducatingthepublicandencouragingactionaboutradon.SinceOrangeEnvironmentis small, madeupofafewinterestedvolunteers,andhasnofunding,itsresourcestoaccomplishtasksthatdonothavepublicsupportisverysmall.Inthefaceofmediaandgovernmentaldismissal,itiseasytoappeartobeaCassandra.Asanexample,oneortworespondentstoourpsychologicalquestionnaireobjectedtoitemsthataskediftheywereupsetorworriedaboutradon.Theysuggestedthatsuchquestionswerereactive,makingthemworrywhentherewasnoreasonto.Incontrasttoresponseaboutnaturally-occurringradon,thecommunityhasrecentlybeenmobilizedovertheissueofa-radondump,-i.e.,adumpofradium-contaminatedsoil,plannedforthearea.Thepublicoutcryhasbeenenormous,althoughthepotentialdangertothecommunityisprobablymuchlessthanfromthepre-existingradoninthearea.Onthisissue,OrangeEnvironmenthasbeenconsultedandaskedtotakeactionbymembersofthecommunity.Thisissueaffordsanopportunitytostudythedifferencebetweenperceptionsofnaturalandtechnologicalhazards;fromtheinformationsofaritappearsthattechnologicalhazardsevokesmoreanger,worry,generalizedstressandaction.ThepsychologicalstudyconductedontheparticipantsofOrangeEnvironment'sradontesting was madepossiblebythequickresponsefundingoftheNaturalHazardsResearchCenterinBoulder.Thestudyhypothesizedthatexposuretoradoninthehome,evenatthelevelsanticipatedintheOrangeCountyarea,wouldbestressfulandhaveemotionalconsequnces.Questionsaboutemotionalresponseswereincluded,aswellastheHorowitzImpactofEventScale.Questionsalsotappeddemographicvariables,perceptionsofriskaboutradonandotherenvironmentalhazardsandlocusofcontrolandsocialsupport.Nowthatsubjectshavereceivedtheirradonresults,wearejustbeginningtocollectdataontheirresponses.Thedatathatcanbeprovidedatthispointdealwiththeissueofbaserates.Oneoftheproblemsofstressresearchisthatofseparatingtheeffectsofstressfromthepre-existingpersonalitiesoftheindividualsinvolved.Thatis,skepticsaboutthenegativeeffectsofstressclaimthatvictimsofhazardaresometimesselfselected,andthatthoseindividuals who showemotionalreactionsarethosewithpre-existingpersonalitydeficits.Forinstance,itisarguedthatthoseveterans who comedownwithPTSDarethosewhohadpre-existingpersonalitydeficits,andthatindividualswhowenttoVietNamand those whosawcombatwerelessstablethanindividualswhomanagedtoavoidtheexperience, thug predisposingthemtopsychopathology.Theliteraturedoesnotsupporttheskeptics'interpretation,buttheargumentisnevertheless

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hardtodiscount.Thebasicdilemmaofhazardsresearchisthatpre-testmeasuresarenotavailableforthevictims.Thatis,wedon'tknowwhenorwheretheearthquake,thetoxicwatercrisis,ortheplanecrashisgoingtostrike.Inthisstudy,wedidhavebaseratedataavailable,andwecomparedthebaserateresponsesofourexperimentalgroupwiththoseof subjects.Wehadtwoexperimentalgroupsofindividualswhotestedtheirhomes.Eachfamilywasgiventwoquestionnaires;atotalof236werehandedout,and76werereturned.Thereturnratewasactallyhigherthantheapparent 32X assomepercentofthefamilieshadonlyoneadult,andallfamiliesweregiventwoquestionnaires.Comparisonoftheresponsesofthe two experimentalgroupsobtainEdnomoredifferencesthanwouldbeexpectedbychance.Thecontrolgroupchosen vas thatofmembersof two chaptersoftheLeagueofWomenVoters.Thisgroupwaschosenbecause we thoughtitwouldbecomparableineducationandenvironmentalawarenesstotheradontesters.Approximately120questionnairesweredistributed,and35werereturned,areturnrateof 29X. Comparisonoftheresponsesofthetwocontrolgroupsobtainednomore-differencesthanwouldbeexpectedbychance.Ourhypotheseswere,generallyspeaking,thattheexperimentalgroupwouldnotappeardifferentfromthecontrolgrouponanydimensionotherthanconcernaboutradon,thatis,thatpre-selectiononthebasisofemotionaladjustmentwouldnotoccurintheexperimentalgroup.Specifically,wehypothesizedthatintermsofsubjectiveadjustment,radontesterswouldresemblethecontrolgroupinhappiness,amountofworry,senseofcontrolovertheirenvironmentandtrustofothers,withtheonlydifferencehypothesizedtobeagreaterworryabouthealthandthehealthofanychildreninthefamilyforthosewhotestedtheirhomes.WealsohypothesizedthatscoresontheImpactofEventsScalewouldbecomparable,sincetheradontestersinthepretestdidnotknowwhattheirlevelsofradonwere.Wehypothesizedthatthemaindifferencebetweengroupswouldbeoneofattitude,thatthosewhochosetohavetheirhomestestedwouldperceiveenvironmentalhazards,especiallyradonexposure,asmoredangeroustosocietythancontrolsubjects.Demographicdifferencesbetweentheexperimentalandcontrolgroupsappeared.WewereofcourseawarethattheLeagueofWomenVoterssamplewasalmost female(32females,3males)whiletheradontesterssampleturnedouttobecomposedof27femalesand 4B males.Thegroupsalsodifferedsignificantlyonage(experimentals40.2,SD 9.6; controls50.4;SD=13.4,t= 4.44, P<.01>.Experimentalsweremorelikelytobemarried (96X vs. B3X, t=2.41,P<.05).Controlsweremorelikelytohavelivedintheirhomeslonger <12.9 years,SDB.7,vs.7.6

PAGE 6

years,SD 7.8; t .. 3.16,P<.01).Ontheimportantdimensionof education, however,thegroupsdidnotdiffer,withthemeanforbothgroups falling intothecategory between undergraduatedegreeandsomegraduatetraining.Inaddition,as will bepresentedlater,bothgroupshadsimilarattitudesaboutenvironmentalhazards.TableIsummarizesthedifferencesbetweentheexperimentalandcontrolgroups.Aspredicted,nodifferences were obtainedonthedimensionsofpastcontrol,anticipatedcontrol,happiness,worry,trustorsupportfromspouseandothers.Contrarytoprediction,there were alsonodifferences in worryabouthealthandhealthofchildren.Alsonotpredictedwasthenonsignificanttrendfortheradontestingsampletodescribethemselvesasmorecompetentthancontrolsubjects.OntheImpactofEvents Scale, thegroupsdidnotdiffer oneithertheavoidancefactor,theinstrusionfactor,ortotalscore. We testedourhypothesisthatradontesterswouldperceiveexvironmentalhazards,especiallyradon,asmoredangerousthanwouldcontrolsubjectsinthefollowingway. We comparedtheratingsofcontrolandexperimentalsubjectsontenenvironmentalhazards,suchaspesticides,nuclearpower,and cigarette smoke.Thedifferencewasnonsignificant,althoughexperimentalsubjectsdidratethehazardsasmoredangerous. When radonalonewasexamined,thedifferencebetweentheexperimentalgroupandcontrolgroupwassignificant.Ananalysisofcovariancewasperformed,totestwhether,separatingoutthefactorofsomewhathigheroverallratingofenvironmentalhazardbyexperimentalsubjects,theradonhazardalonewasstillperceivedasmoredangerous.Theanalysiswassignificant(F=7.3,P<.01,n=89),whilecomparingthegroupmeansonthecovariateofoverallperceptionofenvironmentalhazardstillshowedanonsignificantresult(t=.28,P=.78)Thedemographicdifferencesbetweenourexperimentalsandcontrolssuggesttheinclusionofanothercontrolgroupmorecomparableingenderandagecomposition.However,itisinterestingthatthetwogroups,contrarytoprediction,perceivedenvironmentalhazardsasequallydangerous.Insomeverybasicattitudinalrespects,ourexperimentalandcontrolgroupsareremarkablysimilar,andthesesimilaritiesofattitudemay,forthepurposesofthestudy,bemorecentralthanageandgender.Itwouldbeofinteresttocontrastourexperimentalgroupwithlesseducated,lowersocioeconomicstatusgroupsintermsofattitudesandsubjectivemental health variableshdidnotdifferentiatethetwogroups,andtheonlytrenddifferentiatingthetwowasforgreaterfeltcompetenceintheexperimentals.Thus,tosummarize,ifwedoeventuallyfindstressreactionsinourexperimentalgroup,ourdatasuggestthatthesereactionscannotbeattributedto

PAGE 7

pre-existingemotionaldifficulties.Obviously,moreext.ensiveint.erviewingandt.est.ingwouldbe.necessaryt.o = complet.elyruleout.pre-existingdifficultiesasafact.or, il but. t.he dat.aare more 801idt.han t.he dat.aobt.ainablein almost.allnat.uralisticst.ressst.udies.Ourdat.alIuggestt.hat.t.hedecisiont.ohaveone'shouset.est.edfor not.afunct.ionofbeingaworrywart.,oranunt.rust.ing.chumanbeing,but.rat.herasimplefunct.ionof percept.ionofradonasmoredangeroust.hanot.herpeople see it..Table1Quest.ionExperiment.alsCont.rols tt SO tt SOt.past.cont.rolover2.61.0.2.81.1.94Ufe-anticipat.edcont.ro12.61.12.81.2.72 :. happiness2.31.32.51.0.65 : worry4.11.74.61.8 1.38, about.healt.h3.41.73.91.71.42 worryt.rust.ofot.hers3.31.63.32.4.15 compet.ence2.00.82.41.21.73socialsupport.1.80.61.90.6.45support.fromspouse1.10,31.00.21.21-It.emsexcept.forlast.t.woarescaledinopposit.edirect.ion,sohigherscoreindicat.eslessofvariable


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