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By Frank Füredi

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Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) (2000) Mobile Phones and Health (IEGMP: Chilton, Didcot). 3. 'Men could be dying from fear, warns cancer expert', Daily Telegraph 26 May 2004. 4. Cited in Filler, D. M. (2003) 'Terrorism, Panic and Pedophilia', Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law, Spring 2003, p. 345. 5. Hale, D. (2002) 'Insuring a Nightmare', Worldlink; 19 March 2002. 6. Stearns, P. N. and Haggerty, T. (1991) 'The Role of Fear: Transitions in American Emotional Standards for Children, 1850-1950', American Historical Review, 96, pp.

Two comparable tragedies, two very different reactions. Why? Because public perception and response to any event are subject to influences that are specific to the time and place. Such responses are likely to be shaped not so much by the disaster itself, as by the public attitudes that prevail in society. A perspective which situates events more in their historical and social context would suggest that today's increased concern with safety and risk has little to do with the advance of technology and science.

There is little that is precise about the use of the term risk. It is a term that is deployed in a variety of contexts and used in relation to different themes. It is common to discuss the risk of crime, the risk posed by the nuclear power industry or reproductive technology, the risk of skin cancer, the risk of Gulf Syndrome, political risks, or the risk of using the Internet. Often, the term is used to focus on the outcome of specific activities: the risk of catching AIDS, the risk of a football injury or the risk to health through consuming fatty foods (which are converted to cholesterol in the body).

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