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Radon: the silent killer in your house?

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Prof. David Hevey, Trinity College Dublin, School of Psychology

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Radon: the silent killer in your house?

  1. 1. Radon: the silent killer in your house? Prof. David Hevey, Director of the Research Centre for Psychological Health, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin ,
  2. 2. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
  3. 3. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
  4. 4. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
  5. 5. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
  6. 6. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
  7. 7. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Radon & Lung cancer 300-340 people in Ireland develop lung cancer due to radon 230-265 die from lung cancer due to radon (NCRI, 2017) Radon health threat can be managed: test and remediate Levels of radon testing low despite awareness campaigns But even when individuals are informed that their homes have high radon levels, remediation rates are low. less than 25% actually go on to remediate (Fenton, 2011). Why not test and act?
  8. 8. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Absence of sensory cues to alert people to the risk: – Odourless, silent, tasteless, invisible = “out of sight, out of mind”. Natural risk: – We perceive man-made technological threats to be more risky than natural risks. Radon Threat
  9. 9. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Benign risk : – People live with the risk, sometimes for many decades, without experiencing any symptoms. Effect far removed from the exposure: – Lung cancer will develop decades later and no early symptoms to act as cues = easy to delay action. – People believe that they can undo in the future the damage being caused now – Deaths are relative undramatic, occur singly, and can be accounted for using other explanations Radon Threat
  10. 10. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Risk Numbness - Daily exposure to risk information - Numb to some health threats?
  11. 11. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Radon Threat Emotional identification with our homes: – It is hard to accept that our home (our physical and psychological place of safety and security) is a threat to our health – Radon gas is seeping into your house… – Radon gas is invading your house…
  12. 12. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Risk perception = meaning making Unconscious biases influence how we process radon information – Unrealistic optimism – No incidents of people dying from radon – “Radiation comes from nuclear power plants” not under our floors… These biases act to minimize our sense of risk Risk perception reflects not only personal experiences and circumstances, but is highly influenced by social context. – People look to their social networks for information and guidance, particularly their trusted sources Risk Perception
  13. 13. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Respond defensively to health risk information that is personally threatening – My home is putting me at risk…. – Downplay the seriousness of the health risk – Question the accuracy & integrity of the threatening information Individuals can process information systematically with a bias towards not having to change anything Health Threats
  14. 14. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Radon information programmes based on an assumption that individual will act rationally in relation to the information Once you tell people that there is a radon threat… they will be motivated to test to see if they personally are at risk from the threat….. they will test…. they will then do something to manage the threat BUT combination of radon’s characteristics and the biases in health threat information processing = can stop us taking preventive action Information  Behaviour
  15. 15. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Radon is a manageable health threat Radon risk is challenging to understand Placing the responsibility solely on the homeowner alone may be unwarranted? Conclusion

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