Essay about Skin Cancer and Expert Knowledge

1495 Words6 Pages

Write a report on the disputed role of expert knowledge in understanding and managing risk


1. Introduction – Page 3 2. What is risk? – Page 4 3. Risk Society – Page 5 4. Evidence of risk in contemporary society – Page 6 1. Allotment example – Page 6 2. Sun tanning example – Page 7 5. Conclusion – Page 8 6. References – Page 9


We are all familiar with risk. In fact, it is a key component in our everyday material life and we often manage it automatically either when dealing with mundane tasks or major hazards.
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• After a four year wait, Tim Jordan and his family were given an allotment close to their home in which they grew vegetables and happily ate them. However, they received a letter from the local authorities stating that the soil on the allotment was poisoned with lead and arsenic, and was therefore unsafe. • After months of consultations, the local council sent off samples of the soil to multiple laboratories to get it analysed. The results of which tests deemed the levels of toxins in the soil to be low enough not to prove a threat to human health, and so normal gardening was resumed in the allotments. • Jordan and his family decided to give up the allotment because expert knowledge in the field of science was reliant on assumptions about the soil and they were uncertain of the risks posed by the poisoned soil. • But the validity of the scientific tests was questioned by the UK Government’s environmental agency (EA) who claimed that the results of the tests were questionable because the tests seem to find differing levels of toxins, and so the EA submitted the same samples to nine laboratories in the UK and Wales, to one in the USA, and one in the Netherlands. The results they produced demonstrated enough variation between the laboratories to suggest that such tests may be underestimating the poisons.

By applying the fundamental points of Beck’s risk theory to this example, we can see that expert knowledge did in
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