Improving our understanding of risk perception and the process of risk communication will strengthen the ability of the mobile industry to respond to public concerns.
Mobile Telephony and Health: Public Perceptions in Great Britain
In 2004, the GSMA and MMF working with the UK Mobile Operators Association (MOA) commissioned MORI to analyse trends in the British public’s awareness and perceptions of the alleged health risks and assess the effect of media coverage. The analysis found that fears about possible health-related dangers from mobile phone handsets or masts are a “top-of-the-mind” concern for only about 1 in 20of the population. However, when prompted, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 of the public express themselves concerned. There is a consistent downward trend in the belief that handsets pose a risk, which probably reflects increasing familiarity with the devices but no corresponding falling-off in suspicion of masts. The MOA has published additional data tracking the attitudes of the British general public and local authority planners over subsequent years.
Handsets: Impact of Knowledge and Voluntary Precautionary Recommendations on Risk Perception
The Institute for Environmental Decisions at the ETH Zurich conducted a study led by Prof. Dr. Michael Siegrist that explored the impact of knowledge and voluntary precautionary recommendations on risk perception. Four different information booklets were tested with a sample of Swiss citizens and the results have been published.
International Study of the Effects of Precautionary Measures on Risk Perceptions
Dr. Peter M. Wiedemann from the Forschungszentrum Juelich coordinated an international study involving investigators from Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA tested whether providing information about precautionary measures affects perceived risk regarding mobile phones or base stations. Previous studies in Germany, Switzerland and the UK had found that information on proposed precautionary measures was associated with increased public concern. The study has been completed and published.
Cross-Cultural Assessment of Risks and Benefits of GSM Base Stations
Prof. Dr. Lynn Frewer from the Wageningen University (Netherlands) conduced a study that analysed current knowledge regarding effective risk-benefit communication associated with technology and then developed a survey that was applied in Bangladesh. The results provide a basis for understanding consumer information needs and the influence of cultural factors.
Cell Phones and Health Concerns: Impact of Knowledge and Voluntary Precautionary Recommendations, Cousin et al., Risk Analysis, 31(2):301–311, February 2011.
Risk and Benefit Perceptions of Mobile Phone and Base Station Technology in Bangladesh, van Kleef et al., Risk Analysis, 30(6):1002 – 1015, June 2010.
When Precaution Creates Misunderstandings: The Unintended Effects of Precautionary Information on Perceived Risks, the EMF Case, Wiedemann et al., Risk Analysis, Published online: 28 March 2013.