186146 Community perceptions of polychlorinated biphenyl exposure and associated negative health effects

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 5:30 PM

H.R. Foushee, PhD , Center for the Study of Community Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Randolph S. Devereaux, MSPH , Center for the Study of Community Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Paul Wolff , Center for the Study of Community Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Research has demonstrated that polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure may be associated with cancers of the digestive system, malignant melanoma, reproductive deficiencies, immunogical changes, and dermatological changes. Anniston, AL has a history of significant contamination from the production of PCBs and has been the focus of media reports, litigation, and remediation. However, no study has examined the community's beliefs about exposure to PCBs and potential negative health effects. A representative sample of 1110 randomly selected adults in Anniston was recently interviewed in person. Respondents were asked about their beliefs about PCB exposure and health effects in general and about perceptions of their own exposure and its effects on their own health. Results showed almost all respondents were aware of PCB contamination and litigation in Anniston. Respondents believed that, in general, PCBs have severe negative health effects on humans and most frequently reported PCBs being related to cancer, birth defects, child development problems, and reproductive problems. Two-thirds of respondents believed they have been personally exposed to PCBs at a high level. Two-thirds of those who believe they were exposed said they have suffered severe negative health effects as a result including allergies, breathing problems, cardiovascular disease, mental or emotional problems, skin rashes, and thyroid problems. Consequently, many respondents were extremely worried about PCB contamination and had lower quality of life ratings. Further analyses revealed group differences in perceptions and ratings by gender, race, and place of residence. The implications of these findings for public education in a contaminated community are also discussed.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the public's perceptions of polychlorinated biphenyl contamination and exposure in a contaminted community. 2. Identify the community's beliefs about the health effects on humans of PCB exposure in general and to themselves personally. 3. Application of findings to community health education program.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Toxicants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Ph.D. in Social Psychology and over twelve years experience conducting survey research. I have been principal investigator for this research from development through data collection and analysis.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.