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Rural parents' perceptions of risks associated with their children's exposure to radon.

 OBJECTIVES: To examine the level of awareness of radon issues, correlates of elective testing behaviors, and the accuracy of risk perception for radon exposures among rural residents receiving public health services.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional design was used in which questionnaire data and household analytic data for radon levels were collected from a nonprobabilistic sample of rural households.
SAMPLE: Thirty-one rural households with 71 adults and 60 children participated in the study. Primary household respondents were female (100%), Caucasian (97%), and primarily (94%) between 21 and 40 years of age.
MEASUREMENT: Questionnaire data consisted of knowledge and risk perception items about radon and all homes were tested for the presence of radon.
RESULTS: The prevalence of high airborne radon (defined as> or=4 pCi/l) was 32%. More than a third of the sample underestimated the seriousness of health effects of radon exposure, 39% disagreed that being around less radon would improve the long-term health of their children, and 52% were unsure whether radon could cause health problems. After adjusting for chance, only 21% of the subjects correctly understood their risk status.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides preliminary evidence that low-income rural citizens do not understand their risk of radon exposure or the deleterious consequences of exposure.