The Role of Information in Environmental Health Policy: Measuring Household Responses to Information on Inorganic Contaminants in Private Well Water

EPA Grant Number: F6A10612
Title: The Role of Information in Environmental Health Policy: Measuring Household Responses to Information on Inorganic Contaminants in Private Well Water
Investigators: Tull, Kristen N.
Institution: Duke University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: July 1, 2006 through August 1, 2008
Project Amount: $74,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Environmental


The use of information disclosure programs as a policy instrument for regulating pollutants has increased over the last two decades. Both governments and the private sector have used information disclosure programs as a means of, or to complement, pollution regulation. Despite increased use, little is known about the behavioral responses of key actors to information on environmental hazards. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to better understand the effectiveness of using information as an environmental health policy tool.


The first step necessary for this research is to recruit participants, approximately 100 to 120 households, among private well users in Durham, Orange, and Wake counties in North Carolina. These households will be surveyed to identify their baseline knowledge of the contaminant levels in their wells, the health effects of arsenic, radon, and radium, and their use of alternative sources of water and treatment technologies. Then, half of these households will be randomly selected to have their drinking water wells tested for contaminant levels of arsenic, radon, and radium. This group has been termed the treatment group. The other households will be used as the control group. The treatment group of households will be given a report on the results of the testing and alternative treatment technologies. A follow up survey will be given three months after the initial round of testing both to the treatment and control groups. This survey will assess changes in knowledge and behavior. Then, well-water testing will be provided for the control households. A final follow up survey will be conducted to assess persistence of learning and changes in longer-term behavior.

Expected Results:

Through this research, we expect to better understand how to effectively convey health-based recommendations to stakeholders. In addition, we will evaluate the effectiveness of information campaigns as means of reducing health risks among susceptible populations. Finally, this research will allow us to assign a dollar value to decreases in drinking water contamination.

Supplemental Keywords:

Information disclosure, information provision, policy instrument, policy tool, environmental policy, health policy, household decision-making, household response, contaminated water, inorganic contaminants, water contaminants, arsenic, radon, radium,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Water, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Arsenic, decision-making, Water Pollutants, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, surveys, environmental awareness, drinking water, environmental decision making, information dissemination, environmental policy, household choice

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final