This risk communications guide is one of four guides developed by the AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center) to help local and state leaders understand the current scientific evidence as they address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Download all the guides here.
PFAS are a class of thousands of synthetic organic chemicals that have been detected in drinking water and drinking water sources throughout the United States. Not enough is known about the health impacts of most PFAS, but trace doses of several of the most-researched compounds can lead to health issues.
Public communication about PFAS contamination is particularly challenging because much remains unknown about the thousands of PFAS, our toxicological understanding is rapidly changing, new PFAS continue to be identified, and state and federal guidance vary significantly.
A science-based approach for communicating effectively in situations of high stress, concern, or controversy, risk communication can help address fears of the unknown and potential risks. Successful risk communication conveys information about risks in a relatable way to increase understanding and facilitate community participation in decision-making.
The purpose of this guide is to provide information on risk communication and public outreach strategies based on the best available evidence and additional resources.
Conveying uncertainties early on and maintaining transparency as evidence emerges is critical to building and maintaining trust and successfully engaging the public in the decision-making process.
Suggested citation: American Association for the Advancement of Science Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues 2021. Addressing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Drinking Water: Risk Communications for Local and State Leaders. Washington, D.C.: AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues. aaas.org/programs/epi-center/pfas-risk-communications
Last updated May 7, 2021