Currently there are no tools to accurately estimate pesticides exposure risk for residents and bystanders. European Member States have to develop specific measures and communication strategies to prevent and minimize non-occupational pesticides exposure. Moreover, these measures should be compliant with the requirements of the Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides. Unfortunately, there is a high degree of uncertainties in the assessment of the non-dietary exposure risk for residents, therefore risk communication passes through a deep understanding of exposure risk perception.
The objective of this pilot study is to assess citizens' risk perception of non-dietary exposure to pesticides, and to assist policy-makers and risk communicators in developing targeted awareness-raising materials for residents and bystanders.
Through a household survey, conducted in the rural area of the province of Piacenza (IT)we investigated knowledge, health risk perceptions, and information sources related to non-dietary exposure to agricultural pesticides in residents' indoor and outdoor environment. The factors that push individuals to give importance to several possible pollution sources and to mitigation measures or precaution, in order to protect themselves from possible exposure sources, were also investigated. Results show that even if the air quality of the residential area is not judged negatively, pesticides are perceived as air pollutants that could lead to an actual exposure and, are correlated to the health status. The perception of risk, however, does not seem to be dependent only on the distance between homes and fields. The interpretative hypothesis that the perception of the relationship between air quality and health is influenced by the cultural issue and by psycho-sensory factors and not supported by proper information, even if with some differences among age groups, it seems to be confirmed. To better transfer knowledge and communication, the commitment of those who are recognised as “competent” (doctors and researchers) is critical.