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Dis-Ag-reement: the construction and negotiation of risk in the Swedish controversy over antibacterial silver

Journal article
Authors Max Boholm
Rickard Arvidsson
Åsa Boholm
Hervé Corvellec
Sverker Molander
Published in Journal of Risk Research
Volume 18
Issue 1
Pages 93-110
ISSN 1366-9877
Publication year 2015
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
School of Global Studies
Pages 93-110
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2013.87...
Keywords risk communication, controversy, relational theory of risk, antibacterial silver
Subject categories Environmental engineering, Nano Technology, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Technology and culture, Logic

Abstract

What constitutes a potentially hazardous object is often debated. This article analyses the polemic construction and negotiation of risk in the Swedish controversy over the use of antibacterial silver in health care and consumer products. This debate engages the media, government agencies, parliament and government, non-governmental organizations and companies. Texts and websites from these actors were studied using content analysis. Antibacterial silver is construed by some actors as a risk object with harmful effects on a series of objects at risk: the environment, public health, organisms and sewage treatment. In contrast, other actors deny that antibacterial silver is a risk object, instead construing it as mitigating risk. In such a schema, antibacterial silver is conceived of as managing the risk objects of bacteria and micro-organisms, in turn managing the risk objects of infection, bad smell and washing, and in turn helping the environment and public health (objects at risk). The structure of the debate suggests two basic modes of risk communication. First, antibacterial silver is construed as a risk object, endangering a variety of objects at risk, such as organisms, public health, the environment and sewage treatment. Second, this association between antibacterial silver and objects at risk is obstructed, by denying that antibacterial silver is a risk object or by associating silver with the benefit of mitigating risk.

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