4072.0: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 9:30 AM

Abstract #7309

Consequences of divergent perceptions of environmental health risks: A case study

William A. Oleckno, MPH, HSD, School of Allied Health Professions/Public Health Program, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, 815-753-6321, oman@postmark.net

The problem of high levels of radium in the drinking water supply of the city of DeKalb, Illinois has been a contentious issue for over a decade. A small but determined group of concerned citizens under the banner, "The Children of DeKalb," has been involved in an increasingly organized campaign to force the city to comply with the radium standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act. At the same time, the city of DeKalb, represented by the Water Division, has avoided compliance at virtually every opportunity. At the heart of the debate has been divergent risk perceptions concerning health threats posed by elevated levels of radium in drinking water. The granting of a waiver to the city from restricted status by the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) in 1996 was a defining moment in the debate. Almost immediately following the waiver, the "Children of DeKalb" took legal action in Federal District Court to force compliance. The players in this drama are not limited to the city and the citizens' group, however. The IPCB, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the general public can also be listed in the cast. At the center of the controversy is a 1991 proposal by the EPA to relax the radium standards. This presentation describes the events leading to the lawsuit and the role that divergent risk perceptions played in resolving this issue. The presentation highlights the need for better environmental health education in our communities.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, the learner will be able to: 1. Identify how divergent risk perceptions can influence the way in which environmental health problems are resolved 2. Describe at least two potential consequences of divergent risk perceptions 3. Recognize the importance of environmental health education in the community

Keywords: Health Risks, Drinking Water Quality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA