Evaluation of the Role of Risk Perception in Stakeholder Engagement to Prevent Lead Exposure in an Urban Setting

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Stakeholder engagement is a vital sustainable remediation practice for obtaining useful feedback and identifying societal needs. Evaluating and integrating risk perception of stakeholders into remediation and outreach efforts allows for greater insight, increases the likelihood of success and ultimately, benefits the community by protecting its members from environmental hazards. In this study, we identified risk perception factors that influenced residents' level of concern for mitigating their exposure to elevated concentrations of lead in household paint and historic fill material. Risk perception factors were assessed by an in-person survey conducted in public green spaces. The analysis of survey participants’ responses indicated that their perception of risk to exposed lead was mostly influenced by the presence of hazardous materials in close proximity to their residence, the ability to address pollution, and awareness, interest, and individual accountability in mitigating environmental risks. Responses also revealed that residents considered risk of lead and soil pollution as less menacing than the presence of more immediate and perceptible risks posed by factors such as air and water pollution. In addition, the community seemed to exhibit “optimism bias” and did not identify itself at high risk to susceptible and immediate hazards, including lead exposure. This lack of concern over lead exposure created a significant obstacle to community participation in state-led education and outreach programs. By integrating risk perception analysis and increasing stakeholder engagement, we can bring more attention to this issue, educate the public about the threat of lead pollution, and efficiently use financial resources to implement a more sustainable solution.



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