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Two worlds of assessment of environmental health issues: the case of contaminated water wells in Ramat ha-Sharon

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This research examines two modes of assessment of environmental health risks and the transformation of these risks into public health issues while relying on the specific case of well-water toxicity and mega dose of electromagnetic radiation found in one prosperous town in the center of Israel - Ramat ha-Sharon. Based on official and scientific documentation and interviews conducted at three time periods with randomly selected town residents from contaminated neighborhoods (N = 169), this study shows the discrepancy between the 'objective' experts' standards for assessing environmental health risks and the public's subjective perception and evaluation of the impact of these risks on their health and well-being. Even though, by experts' standards, the well-water toxicity remained constant over the three interview sessions, Ramat ha-Sharon town residents' subjective levels of concern and perception of risk fluctuated as a function of news media and municipality announcements and residents' perceived ability to minimize the risk. This study also shows the complex and multidisciplinary nature of environmental health risk assessments and the need to relocate them into the broader socioeconomic and political context in which they are embedded.
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Keywords: environmental health hazards; public health issues; subjective versus objective assessments; water toxicity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Behavioral Sciences, Western Galilee College of Bar-Ilan University, Acco 2421, Israel

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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