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Focus on Babies: Evidence on Parental Attitudes Towards Pesticide Risks

  • Kelly B. Maguire
  • Nicole Owens
  • Nathalie B. Simon

Studies that estimate the benefits of reduced environmental exposure typically assume that individuals know the true magnitude of the risk reduction. However, the accuracy of risk perception assumptions may be questionable. This issue has not been resolved with respect to adult risk reductions and becomes even more complicated when considering risk reductions to small children. We report results from focus groups with parents of small children regarding their risk perceptions over organic and conventional babyfood. Our results yield surprisingly consistent results between scientific and perceived risks. Previous literature reports a scientific risk reduction estimate of 1.98 per million, reflecting the reduced risk of death from cancer by avoiding pesticides in foods during the first year of life. The results from our focus groups show that parents estimate that the median risk reduction ranges from 1 to 8 per million, depending on specific demographic characteristics. Individuals with less than a four-year college degree provide the highest estimates, while women, those with more education and purchasers of organic babyfood provide lower estimates. We use these results to estimate parental willingness to pay for pesticide risk reductions to their children. Results show that parents in our focus groups who purchase organic babyfood express a value of a statistical cancer of approximately $9 million. These results provide a lower bound on the estimate for the value of reduced cancer risk from pesticide exposure in the first year of life.

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Paper provided by National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its series NCEE Working Paper Series with number 200402.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2004
Date of revision: Mar 2004
Handle: RePEc:nev:wpaper:wp200402
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  1. Govindasamy, Ramu & Italia, John & Adelaja, Adesoji O., 1998. "Predicting Consumer Risk Aversions to Synthetic Pesticide Residues: A Logistic Analysis," P Series 36740, Rutgers University, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.
  2. Ted Gayer & James T. Hamilton & W. Kip Viscusi, 2002. "The Market Value of Reducing Cancer Risk: Hedonic Housing Prices with Changing Information," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 266-289, October.
  3. Gerking, Shelby & de Haan, Menno & Schulze, William, 1988. " The Marginal Value of Job Safety: A Contingent Valuation Study," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 185-99, June.
  4. Byrne, Patrick J. & Toensmeyer, Ulrich C. & German, Carl L. & Muller, H. Reed, 1991. "Analysis Of Consumer Attitudes Toward Organic Produce Purchase Likelihood," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 22(2), June.
  5. Moore, Michael J & Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. " Models for Estimating Discount Rates for Long-term Health Risks Using Labor Market Data," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 381-401, December.
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