Public Perceptions of Contentious Risk: The Case of Rubber Granulate in the Netherlands

Marion de Vries, Liesbeth Claassen, Marcel Mennen, Aura Timen, Margreet J.M. Te Wierik, Danielle R.M. Timmermans

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper reports on the perceptions of risk related to practicing sports on fields containing rubber granulate infill, and preferences for mitigation measures, among people with and without offspring exposed to rubber granulate. Two repeated surveys were conducted among members of the general population and parents of children aged under 18, in the middle of a dynamic public discussion about the potential health risks of exposure to rubber granulate. The first survey (N = 1033) was administered in December 2016 at a time characterized by considerable public uncertainty and contrasting opinions in the public risk debate. The second survey (N = 782) was conducted in January 2017 after the publication of a risk assessment report, which concluded that practicing sport on fields containing rubber granulate is safe. Multilevel analyses were performed to study changes in perceptions of risk and mitigation preferences in the time between the two surveys, the influence of being familiar with new information following the risk assessment report, and the differences in the perceptions of risk and mitigation preferences between groups with and without offspring exposed to rubber granulate. The results of this study show that, initially, a substantial proportion of the Dutch public perceived practicing sports on fields containing rubber granulate as a potential health threat to children. Over time, after publication of a new risk assessment study stating that practicing sports on fields containing rubber granulate is safe, perceived risk and preferences for mitigation of this risk decreased, especially among those who were familiar with the new information. Parents of children under the age of 18, in particular those with children who were exposed to rubber granulate, were more likely to perceive the risk as higher and to prefer a stricter mitigation policy. These insights may be important to inform public health communication strategies with respect to the timing and tailoring of risk messages to various groups.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2250
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Volume16
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019

    Keywords

    • crumb rubber
    • environmental health risk
    • risk communication
    • risk perception
    • rubber granulate

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