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Lay-people's knowledge about toxicology and its principles in eight European countries

Bearth, Angela, Saleh, Rita, Siegrist, Michael
Food and chemical toxicology 2019 v.131 pp. 110560
cleaning agents, dose response, experts, fearfulness, food additives, stigma, surveys, terminology, toxicology, uncertainty, Europe
The procedures of risk assessment related to substances consumed or used by consumers (e.g., food additives, cleaning products) are highly complex and there exists some controversy between experts in regards to the uncertainty linked to it. This contributes to the well documented divergence in experts and lay-people's judgments, particularly for synthetic or man-made chemicals. By investigating lay-people's knowledge gaps and misconceptions related to toxicology, we hope to contribute to facilitating the communication between experts and the lay public. For this, a large-scale survey measuring knowledge of toxicological principles, trust in regulators, the irrational fear of chemicals and health concern was distributed in eight European countries (Total: N = 5631). Results suggest that large gaps exist regarding people's knowledge of toxicological principles and that a lack of knowledge is significantly associated with higher levels of chemophobia. Particular attention for future communication efforts should be placed on the stigma associated with the terminology, principles of dose-response associations and the comparability of substances of natural and synthetic origin.