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Communicating Results of Drinking Water Tests From Private Wells: Designing Report-Back Materials to Facilitate Understanding.

This evaluation assessed the effectiveness of graphic-based (i.e., pictorial) report-back materials in communicating the presence of toxic metals in private well water and soil samples. It also explored associations between recommendations in the report-back materials and appropriate actions to protect health taken by a subset of participants in an environmental monitoring pilot study. Overall, 39 residents of Stokes County, North Carolina, participated in the Well Empowered pilot study, which included water and soil testing and analysis. All participants received materials explaining the extent to which toxic metals were present in their well water and soil. A subset of participants ( n = 14) responded to a follow-up evaluation, which showed that many found at least one component of their test results "very easy to understand." The existence of a federal standard for comparison appeared to influence participant recall of results, which was more accurate for contaminants with a federal maximum contaminant level. Our evaluation results suggest that a simple pictorial format, in combination with more detailed supporting text, can be useful in highlighting results that require action.

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