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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

BYRD, Theresa L.; VANDERSLICE, James  and  PETERSON, Susan K.. Attitudes and beliefs about environmental hazards in three diverse communities in Texas on the border with Mexico. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2001, vol.9, n.3, pp. 154-160. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892001000300004.

Objective. Since communicating risk related to environmental hazards has consistently presented a challenge to government agencies and industries, our objective was to better understand the attitudes and beliefs of three communities, so as to help agencies and industries develop better risk communication interventions. Methods. We explored attitudes and beliefs about environmental risks in three diverse communities in Texas on the border with Mexico, in the county of El Paso. During the summer of 1995, using a door-to-door survey, we interviewed 147 individuals, using a questionnaire based upon an existing instrument. Interviews were conducted in three very different areas of the county: semirural low-income, urban low-income, and suburban upper-income. We randomly selected specific sections in each of the three communities for inclusion in the sample. We assessed attitudes and beliefs about regulations and experts, risk and hazards, and how to address environmental issues. Results. Attitudes and beliefs varied among the three communities, especially in the assessment of riskiness of various hazards. In general, there was mistrust of government agencies and of industries, a strong feeling that the environment can be improved, and a lack of understanding about what actions individuals might take to improve the environment. Discussion. Agencies need to find ways to increase their credibility with the public, and they should assess communities in order to understand the attitudes of the residents.

Keywords : Surveys; environmental health; public opinion; Texas; Hispanic Americans.

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