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Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Chemicals
partnerships, and constituency assessment into study design (Chapter 4). This chapter focuses on issues entailed in reporting results of biomonitoring studies and in discussing their interpretation and use. If study design included partnership with one or more constituencies, continued partnership on implementation of evaluation and of reporting results is prudent. Partnerships could be undertaken even without prior partnership in the study planning, but evaluation is likely to determine that communication would have been even more effective if partnership had begun earlier. Constituency assessment should have been completed by the time results are reported, although a significant lag time since the planning stage might necessitate updating this assessment to ensure there have been no critical changes before communication of results begins. Public perceptions about uncertainty, exposure, and other biomonitoring-relevant topics discussed in this chapter might inform constituency assessment as described in Chapter 4. The remainder of Chapter 6 assumes that appropriate evaluation planning and implementation, partnership consideration and implementation, and constituency assessment have been done, and therefore this chapter focuses on reporting of results, interpretation, and use.
Without effective communication in particular between biomonitoring researchers and nonscientists and among nonscientists, proper interpretation and use of biomonitoring data will occur only with difficulty, conflict, anxiety, and waste of time and money. The challenges for biomonitoring reflect those common to communication of risk assessment (not to mention risk management) as identified by the field of risk communication. There are failures by information generators to characterize interpretation of data fully and fairly, or to attend to constituent information needs or concerns; failure of information reporters to fully convey information complexities, and caveats while avoiding simple “sound bites”; and by information recipients to be prepared (for example, with knowledge and attention) to deliberate adequately on the information’s meaning for risk management.
Because the literature on biomonitoring-specific communication is extremely scarce, this chapter addresses risk communication issues most relevant to biomonitoring.
LIMITS OF THIS CHAPTER’S DISCUSSION
First, we focus here on communication with nonscientists, partly because that is where the challenges often are the most difficult1 and partly
Communication among scientists (such as toxicologists, epidemiologists, and risk assessors) about biomonitoring can be fraught with problems. However, the focus of this chapter is on the communication path between scientists and nonscientists, where the nature of the problems and potential solutions is less understood.