Purpose: Radiation risk communication is a critical component of radiation protection and the public’s understanding of radiation risks and benefits. Risk communication becomes even more complicated when considering cultural and language differences. In the US, many diverse communities face risk communication challenges. We obtained radon testing data to evaluate patterns of radon testing in Allentown, the third largest city in Pennsylvania. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is associated with over 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the US annually. It is estimated that 1 in every 15 homes in the US has elevated radon levels above the recommended action level set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Allentown has some of the highest reported levels of indoor radon in the country, yet only a small portion of the population has tested their homes. This is true particularly among self-identified Hispanics, who make up nearly half of the city’s population. This study seeks to (1) characterize the difference in testing rates between self-identified Hispanics and non-Hispanics in Allentown, (2) quantify the level of radon awareness and knowledge, (3) identify potential obstacles to radon testing among the Allentown population that self-identifies as Hispanic, and (4) determine whether more effective risk communication is needed. Method: Radon test results in Allentown were analyzed to better understand the nature of radon testing. To evaluate radon awareness and knowledge, a cross-sectional study was conducted using a face-to-face survey. This data was informative in assessing testing and mitigation practices, ethnicity, income level, age, education level, homeowner status, zip code and primary language. Results: Ethnicity was an independent predictor of radon awareness and knowledge. Statistically significant differences were found between the number of self-identified Hispanics (39%) and non-Hispanics (84%) who indicated that they had ever heard of radon; 13% of Hispanics and 49% of non-Hispanics knew that they lived in an area with typically high radon levels. There was a statistically significant association between self-reported ethnicity and radon testing with non-Hispanics (43%) more likely to test their homes for radon than Hispanics (32%). Conclusion: Individual and community understanding of the risks of exposure to radiation sources such as radon is dependent upon communication that informs and spurs appropriate action. This study demonstrates the need for culturally appropriate radon risk communication strategies targeted to a Hispanic population. Successful communication will raise awareness and knowledge that can lead to better public health protection.
- risk communication
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging