Public Perceptions of Environmental Public Health Risks in the United States
Shin, M.; Werner, A.K.; Strosnider, H.; Hines, L.B.; Balluz, L.; Yip, F.Y.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16(6)
Understanding public perceptions about environmental health hazards, exposures, and health impacts can help environmental public health practitioners to target and prioritize community activities, policy needs, and communication strategies. The online cross-sectional 2013 summer wave of the ConsumerStyles survey sampled U.S. adults and used questions from the Centers for Disease Control's Environmental Public Health Tracking Program to measure public awareness of governmental efforts to track environmental exposures and links to health impacts, as well as perceptions of environmental health issues. Unadjusted and adjusted logistic regressions examined the associations between demographic characteristics and level of awareness of government environmental public health efforts or level of concern about health risks associated with environmental pollutants. Responses were received from 4033 participants, yielding a response rate of 66.0%. More than half of respondents (57.8%) noted concerns about health risks from environmental pollutants. More than one-third (40.0%) of respondents reported awareness of government efforts. Nearly 40% of respondents felt that none of the health impacts listed in the survey were related to environmental issues. Multiple logistic regression models showed that non-Hispanic blacks, other races, females, people with a college or higher education, and people living in the Midwest or South regions were more likely than their counterparts to be concerned about how the environment affects their health. Future work should focus on improving risk communication, filling the information gap on environmental health issues, and understanding how perceptions change over time.