Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Indoor air pollution

Coincidentally, I was reading Michael LeGault's Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye when a story about air pollution in Canadian ice rinks hit the press. According to LeGault, this sort of thing is quite serious:
Fear causes flaws in our perceptions, which leads to erroneous thinking and conclusions. For instance, a study conducted by the EPA found that the public's top environmentally related health concerns included radioactive waste, radiation from nuclear accidents, industrial pollution of waterways, and hazardous waste sites. Yet, when the EPA polled its own experts it got an entirely different list of concerns. Radioactive waste and radiation from nuclear accidents were not even ranked, and some of the public's lowest concerns, for example indoor air pollution, were ranked "high" by experts...

2 comments:

TucsonGirl said...

Well, I'm not surprised by how the public's perception of "important" differs from experts'. Smoking is a good example, in my opinion. Back in the day, there was a strong push to warn the public on the hazards of smoking which was aimed at smokers: not bystanders inhaling second-hand smoke. How is it that no one thought that standing next to a smoker inhaling his/her smoke wasn't a bad thing? Well, it wasn't the point at the time. The focus was (and still is)to get smokers to stop smoking. Athough there were probably a lot of non-smokers who thought that being in the vicinity of smoke was no big deal, I bet if people working for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or Health Canada had been surveyed, they would've probably pointed out that second-hand smoke is just as bad smoking a cigarette. Of course, second-hand smoke is clearly a concern now and is addressed as much as smoking.

John said...

It's interesting that you raise the issue of secondhand smoking: LeGault includes it, and global warming, in his list of examples of public perceptions led astray by intuition (i.e., the Blink! theory the book argues against). The rest of his list made sense to me, but those two had me scratching my head, wondering how they hadn't been scientifically validated (which was his argument: more work needs to be done).