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J Environ Radioact. 2014 Jul;133:86-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2013.04.005. Epub 2013 May 15.

Radiation risk perception: a discrepancy between the experts and the general population.

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Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN, Boeretang 200, B-2400 Mol, Belgium. Electronic address:


Determining the differences in the perception of risks between experts who are regularly exposed to radiation, and lay people provides important insights into how potential hazards may be effectively communicated to the public. In the present study we examined lay people's (N = 1020) and experts' (N = 332) perception of five different radiological risks: nuclear waste, medical x-rays, natural radiation, an accident at a nuclear installation in general, and the Fukushima accident in particular. In order to link risk perception with risk communication, media reporting about radiation risks is analysed using quantitative and qualitative content analyses. The results showed that experts perceive radiological risks differently from the general public. Experts' perception of medical X-rays and natural radiation is significantly higher than in general population, while for nuclear waste and an accident at a nuclear installation, experts have lower risk perception than the general population. In-depth research is conducted for a group of workers that received an effective dose higher than 0.5 mSv in the year before the study; for this group we identify predictors of risk perception. The results clearly show that mass media don't use the same language as technical experts in addressing radiological risks. The study demonstrates that the discrepancy in risk perception and the communication gap between the experts and the general population presents a big challenge in understanding each other.


Media; Natural radiation; Nuclear accident; Nuclear waste; Radiological risk perception; X-rays

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