T.L. Byrd and J. VanDerslice, University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health at El Paso, 1100 North Stanton, Suite 110, El Paso, TX, 79902, Phone: 915-747-8504, FAX: 915-747-8512

ABSTRACT Perceptions of environmental risk were explored in three communities of El Paso, Texas, through a series of focus groups and a door-to-door survey of 147 residents. Included in the survey were questions about a) knowledge of environmental risks and the perceived level of risk, b) sources of information and source credibility, and c) general attitudes about risk, locus of control, and the government's ability to protect the population. The three communities, each of different SES, were compared for differences in risk perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes. In general, perceived risk to self and family was consistently lower than perceived risk to the community as a whole, especially for risks that might be considered behavioral in nature. Surprisingly, only a small proportion of respondents were even aware of local and national environmental agencies. The media was by far the most common source of environmental risk information. These results demonstrate a clear need for improved environmental risk communication along the U.S.-Mexico border.

KEYWORDS: risk perception, risk communication, U.S./Mexico border

This paper is from the Proceedings of the HSRC/WERC Joint Conference on the Environment, May 1996, published in hard copy and on the Web by the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Hazardous Substance Research Center.

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