A Communication Strategy for Residual Risk

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ABSTRACT

The anticipated roll-out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Residual Risk Program represents a new kind of communication challenge for industrial facilities. The first risk-based rule is due in 2001. While questions have been raised about the technical compliance measures that will be required by the new regulations, the communication issues related to residual risk should not be overlooked. More than ever, EPA is stressing the importance of public outreach in all its initiatives. Industrial facilities need to be prepared to keep the lines of communication open on the local level and to discuss potential health and environmental impacts from their dayto-day operations with residents, agencies, other industry, and the media.

A proactive approach to residual risk communication will be beneficial in the long run. The public is very concerned about the relationship between industrial facilities and the risk of chronic health conditions such as cancer, birth defects, and asthma, which the Residual Risk Program is designed to address. Industrial facilities need to illustrate their commitment to reducing risk and protecting public health. To be successful, facilities need to identify and respond to public concerns as well as raise awareness of what facilities are doing to lower emissions, reduce risks, and protect human health and the environment. In order to get this message out effectively, industry also needs to build trust and improve its credibility with the public.
In this paper, we discuss the key risk communication issues involved in responding to residual risk. We also identify some of the communication strategies which can be used to discuss chemical risks with a lay audience.

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