A systematic review of health risk communication about EMFs from wireless technologies
In the current paper, research on risk communication regarding radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) of mobile communication technologies is systematically reviewed. The following databases were searched in March 2017: EBSCO (PsycInfo, Academic search premier), Medline, SCOPUS, and emf-portal.org. Of 1139 unique hits, 28 articles (including 27 studies) remained after full-text eligibility screening. The majority of studies were experiments. The quality of all studies was evaluated against standardised criteria. Studies were assigned to nine different categories of content. Categories were comprehensibility of information (four studies), information on the (non-)existence of the risk (2), information about uncertainty (3), information focussed on different health effects (3), information about the source of the information (2), information about individual risk and exposure aspects (5), information about precautionary measures (14), effects of television reports and audio-visual advertisements (4), information regarding base station siting (2). For each topic, findings were summarised and, if possible, a recommendation for risk communication practice was derived. Throughout the topics, many studies did not only analyse the main effects but also interactions with recipient characteristics. Interaction analyses suggest that especially prior risk perception shapes the individual evaluation of information about RF-EMF and has an influence on perceived credibility, interpretation of verbal descriptors of uncertainty, perceived persuasiveness of arguments and the communication´s effect on risk perception. For information about precautionary measures, the evidence was combined in a meta-analysis. Mean effects showed a significant increase of risk perception regarding mobile phones and mobile phone base stations due to information about precaution (Hedges´ g =.16, 95% confidence interval (.05;.26) for mobile phone risk perception, g =.17 (.10;.24) for base station risk perception). Strategies for dealing with the influence of prior risk perception are discussed. Finally, limitations of the current study and potential avenues for future research are outlined.