Whenever risks are calculated, Risk Communication is required to communicate the risks to the public, who typically do not have a scientific background and are often suspicious of the scientists and regulators who developed the risks. The communication process can be complex, multidisciplinary, and it is an evolving process of increasing importance in protecting the public health.
For Terra Mentis, the most common communications are with environmental health decision-makers and the general public on issues such as community air pollution, hazardous waste sites, lead, pesticides, drinking water, and vapor intrusion into peoples' homes. Risk communication can also help promote changes in individual behavior such as informing homeowners about the need to check for indoor radon or lead-based paint.
Principles of Risk Communication
The National Research Council (NRC) defines risk communication as "an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among individuals, groups, and institutions." The definition includes "discussion about risk types and levels and about methods for managing risks." Risk communication theory and practice may include public participation and conflict resolution, and is intertwined with risk assessment and risk management-concepts. Often information about health risks are prepared by stakeholders and policymakers, who have a vested interest in the outcome, leading to the public's suspicion and distrust. Effective risk communication is a two-way process where participation is an individual's and a community's democratic right.
Effective risk communication involves including all stakeholders such as community members, activists, government officials, scientists, and corporate executives may disagree about the nature, magnitude, or severity of the risk in question. Risk communication highlights more clearly the nature and size of the conflict; leading the way to a more informed dialogue, it promotes the consensus-building process but is not designed to eliminate dissent.