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Negative communication effects in a lead contaminated mining area in southeastern Brazil
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Negative communication effects in a lead contaminated mining area in southeastern Brazil

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Negative communication effects in a lead contaminated mining area in southeastern Brazil …

Negative communication effects in a lead contaminated mining area in southeastern Brazil

Gabriela M. Di Giulio, Newton M. Pereira and Bernardino R. Figueiredo - University of Campinas (Brazil) - berna@ige.unicamp.br

Scientists and professionals who deal with environmental and public health issues recognize the importance of displaying the results of their research projects to the local population in an appropriate form, especially when they indicate risk situations. This process is known as risk communication and includes strategies to facilitate understanding of relevant data and their implications by the public. One important benefit of that strategy is promoting public involvement in decision processes to solve or attenuate risk situations.

In this context, risk communication has intensely been discussed in many countries where participation of the community in the risk management process was achieved as a consequence of correct information. Unfortunately, this subject has not been debated in Brazil, as it should be. On account of this, environmental and public health researchers continue to face difficulties to establish an appropriate dialogue with local communities.

The present study focuses on the actions adopted by scientists from the University of Campinas for disseminating their results on lead contamination and human exposure in the mining district of Adrian—polis, southeastern Brazil. At the first moment, several families received the assistance of health authorities and some environmental intervention actions were planed for the area. Notwithstanding, due to the media sensationalism about the case and the lack of efficient communication, Adrian—polis residents have suffered stigmatization for their health problems and this negative effect has been a determinant factor to become some of them unwilling to cooperate in future research. (On going research financially supported by FAPESP Grant 05/52239-0).

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  • 1. [email_address] WORKSHOP ON COMMUNICATION OF GEOSCIENCE INFORMATION Negative Communication Effects in a Pb Contaminated Mining Area ( Southeastern Brazil) Nottingham 2006
  • 2. Risk Communication - a case study in Adrianópolis (Ribeira Valley, Brazil) Gabriela Marques Di Giulio Newton Müller Pereira Bernardino R. de Figueiredo Institute of Geoscience s , University of Campinas (Brazil)  2006 (FAPESP Grant 05/52239-0)
  • 3. Scientists and professionals (environmental and public health) recognize the importance of displaying the results of their research projects to the local population Communication: in an appropriate form, especially in risk situations
  • 4. What is Risk Communication ? R isk communication involves the transference of information – as calculations, statistics, predictions concerning death, solutions to a problem – from “experts” to people with maximum effectiveness at a minimum loss of accuracy and content  
  • 5. Objectives of Risk Communication The goal of risk communication cannot be merely the transmission of factual information, nor can it be the narrow aim of enlightenment or the promotion of behavioural change   The objectives are to inform to incite to action to reassure to co-opt or to overpower   Important: Negotiation is the central process for reconciling conflicts and to involve people
  • 6. Risk Communication Includes strategies to facilitate understanding of relevant data and their implications by the public More important: promote public involvement in decision processes to solve or attenuate risk situations
  • 7. Risk Perception R isk: an objective threat of harm to people and a product of culture and social experience Citizens perceive risks differently from those that create the risks or construct risks assessments Influences: media, government, society, science, culture 
  • 8. The social amplification of risk accidents and other risks events interact with psychological, social, institutional and cultural processes in ways that can heighten or attenuate perceptions of risk and shape risk behaviour   Public responses: consequences extend far beyond direct harm to human health or the environment Include indirect impacts: loss of confidence in institutions, stigmatization or alienation from community affairs
  • 9. Success of risk communication D epends on the sensitivity to the perceptions of risk and behaviour of various publics before, during and after an accident or research tha t involves risk situation   The risk communicator needs to develop a strong listening capacity in order to discern issues about the distribution of risks and benefits, the adequacy of proposed solutions in socioeconomic terms, and potencial vested interests  
  • 10. Adrianópolis – Ribeira Valley (BR) During the past 50 years, Adrianópolis had been under the influence of the full activity of a lead refinery and mine working by the side of the river The plant and mines were shut down at the end of 1995, and part of the worker population and their families still remain living nearby in small communities  
  • 11. Studies at Unicamp: Aimed to assess the exposure of children and adults to lead in these areas, where residual environmental contamination from the past industrial activity still exists These studies involve blood samples of 472 children age 7 to 14 years and 523 adults age 15 to 70 years   Results: Median values obtained from children living close to the refinery (less than or equal to 2 km) were higher than those obtained from children in other areas around the mining region (the same trend was observed for adults) Two areas: Vila Mota e Capelinha (100 families, 60% blood samples with lead concentrations above 10  g/dl; 13% above 20  g/dl)  
  • 12. The lead refinery was shut down at the end of 1995 and there were no remediation activities at the site since then (now, it begins to change)   The elevated blood lead levels found in children living close to the refinery seem to indicate that, despite the end of industrial activities, population is still exposed to lead contaminat ed soil in the area   In Vila Mota and Capelinha there are no paved roads or streets exposing children to soil and dust contaminated with lead  
  • 13. Tailings and waste disposal near the refinery and by side of the Ribeira River   Last research (2004 – 2005): Contaminated soil and food (culture of the yards)
  • 14. Risk Communication in Adrianópolis Actions: * Meetings with authorities and inhabitants * Production and delivery informative bulletins Problems: * No strategies with mass media * No communication plan before, during and after the researches * L ack of efficient communication
  • 15. Adrianópolis in the media Extensive media coverage Mass media published many informations about Adrianópolis case   Sensationalist articles – in the beginning the case was shown as a serious problem; after it was shown as a regular situation But the alarm was created
  • 16. Important to remember Media - major determinant: * social risk amplification * stigmatization of the place Mass media: *play a critical role in dramatizing and framing the risk problem * play an important role in interpreting the meaning of the risk event
  • 17. Consequences Case Adrianópolis: d ue to the media sensationalism about the case and the lack of efficient communication : * residents have suffered stigmatization for their health problems * negative climate of fear and alarm in the city * effect has been a determinant factor to become some of them unwilling to cooperate in future research * no trust in public institutions (universities and government)
  • 18. Conclusions: R isk communication has intensely been discussed in many countries where participation of the community in the risk management process was achieved as a consequence of correct information Unfortunately, this subject has not been debated in Brazil, as it should be On account of this, environmental and public health researchers continue to face difficulties to establish an appropriate dialogue with local communities
  • 19. Seven rules of risk communication (EPA) * Accept and involve the public as a legitimate partner * Plan carefully and evaluate your effort * Listen to the public's specific concerns * Be honest, frank, and open * Coordinate and collaborate with other credible sources * Meet the needs of the media * Speak clearly and with compassion R emember: Is necessary to elicit what various publics believe they need and want to know – there is a number of interested publics with differing concerns, expectations and cultural agendas
  • 20. Thank You! [email_address]