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THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health PERCEPTION OF RISKS FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC.

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Presentation on theme: "THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health PERCEPTION OF RISKS FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC."— Presentation transcript:

1 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health PERCEPTION OF RISKS FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS: LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE Paolo Vecchia National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy

2 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health PERCEPTION OF RISKS OF EMF The Commission adopted a programme of Community action on pollution-related diseases which takes account of the fact that health risks, including those associated with electromagnetic fields, are often perceived by the public very differently from what is established by scientific evidence. Council of the European Union, Recommendation 12 July 1999.

3 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health

4 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health WHAT IS RISCHIO, RISQUE, RIESGO? The pure possiblity for a negative event to occur (English: hazard) Some mathematical combination of the impact of a possible negative effect and the probability of its occurrence (English: risk)

5 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health MATHEMATICAL DEFINITION OF RISK It is generally assumed (explicitly or implicitly) that risk is the product of the possible detriment times the probability, i.e.: R = D. P In the case of health risks (rather than accidents), also the credibility of a hazard to actually exist (e.g. the IARC classification) should be taken into account: R = D. P. C

6 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health SUBJECTIVE EFFECTS AND RISK PERCEPTION Subjective effects of electromagnetic fields have been reported both within workers and the general public. The following questions arise: Effects are real or due to suggestion? In the case they are real, they are due to: Exposure (hypersensitivity)? Psychosomatic mechanisms? Other factors?

7 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health ARE SCIENTIFIC ANSWERS POSSIBLE? Yes Reported disturbances, are, at least partially, due to suggestion or psychosomatic effects. Scientific bases: Provocation tests Controlled statistical studies Effects in the absence of exposure

8 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health PROVOCATION TESTS Hypersensitive subjects are exposed to a source that may be on/off with no awareness. High correlation between guess and symptoms No correlation between guess and status of the source

9 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health FURTHER QUESTIONS To what extent are these pseudo-effects due to a distorted risk perception? What causes distortion? What is the role of (bad) risk communication?

10 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health FACTORS INFLUENCING RISK PERCEPTION Catastrophic potential Familiarity with the agent Understanding of mechanisms Uncertainty of knowledge Controllability of risk Voluntarity of exposure Effects on children Effects on future generations Indentificability of victims Relevance of effects Trust in institutions Attention of media Previous accidents Equity of risks and benefits Clarity of benefits Irreversibility of effects Personal involvement Scientific evidence Human or natural origin

11 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health THE ROLE OF INFORMATION Distorted information: Doll Report Partial information: Laterality effect of mobile phones Animal studies on RF fields Missing information (good news is no news): Epidemiological studies on mobile phones

12 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health DIFFICULTIES OF SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION The public requires communication of scientific findings to be timely and understandable Simplification conflicts with rigour (science can never say safe) Transparency conflicts with quality assurance (peer review)

13 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health EFFECTS OF RISK PERCEPTION A distorted risk perception has both social and health implications: Anxiety and psychosomatic disturbances are an objective health detriment. A priori attribution of real effects to EMF exposure may prevent investigation of true causes. Social tension is also a health damage.

14 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health RISK PERCEPTION AND WORRY McMahan S., Meyer J. (1995). Symptom prevalence and worry about high voltage transmission lines. Environ. Reas. 70:

15 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health

16 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health WHICH LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE? New technologies are likely to face problems of risk perception due to: Lack of familiarity with the agent Lack of understanding of mechanisms Uncertainty of knowledge

17 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health EXTREMELY HIGH FREQUENCY EMF Technologies based on EHF EMFs are a frontier. They are new to engineers, biologists, and health scientists, and this can create fear of the unknown They are likely to spread out before their consequences are fully understood and that can create uncertainty

18 THz-BRIDGE Workshop Capri, September 29 - October 2, 2002 Istituto Superiore di Sanità National Institute of Health AVOIDING DISTORSION OF RISK PERCEPTION Promote specific research on biological and health effects Ensure correct transfer of scientific data Establish an effective dialogue between the scientific community and the public


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