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Article
April 27, 1994

Toxic Risks: Science, Regulation, and Perception

Author Affiliations

American Cancer Society Atlanta, Ga

 

by Ronald E. Gots, 277 pp, $49.95, ISBN 0-8731-510-1, Boca Raton, Fla, Lewis Publishers, 1993.

JAMA. 1994;271(16):1292-1293. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510400082041

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Abstract

There may be no more difficult topic for scientific communication than that of toxic environmental risks. Not only is the subject scientifically complex, involving several different specialized disciplines, notably toxicology and epidemiology, but it is highly sensitive from the viewpoint of society. While scientific knowledge must be interpreted for regulatory purposes, however incomplete that knowledge may be, public perceptions greatly color how such regulations and their scientific underpinnings are understood. Emotions often run high and understanding low when possibilities of community-wide exposures to radiation or chemicals are raised. In such settings, explanations from scientific and regulatory authorities can seem obscure or contradictory because of the sheer complexity of scientific data, of risk assessment procedures, and of the regulatory process itself. Unfortunately, when such situations arise, and they do so not infrequently, simplistic and often distorted explanations are likely to receive greater attention and credence than sober ones that put scientific

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