Clearing the air and breathing freely: The health politics of air pollution and asthma

Phil Brown, Brian Mayer, Stephen Zavestoski, Theo Luebke, Joshua Mandelbaum, Sabrina McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study examines the growing debate around environmental causes of asthma in the context of federal regulatory disputes, scientific controversy, and environmental justice activism. A multifaceted form of social discovery of the effect of air pollution on asthma has resulted from multipartner and multiorganizational approaches and from intersectoral policy that deals with social inequality and environmental justice. Scientists, activists, health voluntary organizations, and some government agencies and officials have identified various elements of the asthma and air pollution connection. To tackle these issues, they have worked through a variety of collaborations and across different sectors of environmental regulation, public health, health services, housing, transportation, and community development. The authors examine the role of activist groups in discovering the increased rates of asthma and framing it as a social and environmental issue; give an overview of the current knowledge base on air pollution and asthma, and the controversies within science; and situate that science in the regulatory debate, discussing the many challenges to the air quality researchers. They then examine the implications of the scientific and regulatory controversies over linking air pollution to increases in asthma. The article concludes with a discussion of how alliances between activists and scientists lead to new research strategies and innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-63
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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