Radioactivity in Drinking Water: Expert Opinion and Policy Choices

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To examine the preferences of experts to selected economic and policy options in ground-water protection, we conducted an exploratory survey. We presented a group of 120 experts with an analysis of the problem of radium in drinking water supplies of Iowa, and requested their response to a variety of formal questions pertaining to specific issues related to the presence of radium in drinking water. Ninety-seven of the 120 responded. We observed definite preferences in responses to certain aspects of the problem, although in some cases their responses differed significantly due to such factors as length of ground-water related professional experience and residential status. When the presence of excessive radium in drinking water is identified, the respondents preferred immediate action in a world of incomplete knowledge over extensive future research; were willing to undertake personal action to seek radium-free water rather than wait for official action; and favoured local and state government involvement over federal intervention. Findings based on such exploratory surveys can be of much value in defining insightful research hypotheses for field testing. Confirmatory testing of such hypotheses to establish actual preferences in communities with excessive radium in drinking water is a valuable area for further research.

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Environmental Geochemistry and Health, v. 12, issue 4, p. 267-276