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Communication Principles and Practices to Improve Message Effectiveness and Public Perception of Trace Organic Compounds

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This paper describes a report recently published by Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) that is a state-of-knowledge synthesis of effective risk communication practices, public perception, and message effectiveness. These principles are applicable to a variety of potential health and environmental risks; however, the report is written with a focus on trace organic compounds. Findings are drawn from: 1) a focused literature review of materials published in the environmental industry; 2) documents describing risk communication practices in other industries (nuclear energy, chemical manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry) which culminated in several “lessons learned”; 3) coding and systematic analysis of approximately 25 recent media articles pertaining to trace organic compounds focused on vocabulary and imagery, key messages, and the articles' likely impact on the public; and 4) interviews with water and wastewater utility representatives to better understand their existing communication programs and needs. Recommendations for utilities and future research are also provided.

Keywords: PPCPs; Trace organic compounds; education; emerging contaminants; media; microconstituents; perception; pharmaceuticals; public relations; risk communication

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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