'Relax and take a deep breath': Print media coverage of asthma and air pollution in the United States

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15 Scopus citations


The media are an important social actor in the construction of the public's understanding of the complex relationships between the environment and their health. This paper explores the print media's coverage of the relationship between asthma and air pollution, focusing on the portrayal of causal certainty between exposure to various forms of air pollution and the etiology and exacerbation of the disease. By examining twenty years of newspaper articles from the New York Timeş Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, this paper presents findings on trends across time, within papers, and across key themes. Although the print media's coverage of asthma and its environmental correlates has increased over time, this paper finds relatively little coherence in whether asthma is portrayed as directly caused by air pollution or triggered by exposures. In terms of coverage, outdoor sources of air pollution are covered more frequently - but with less certainty in the discussion of specific relationships. This lack of coherence and specificity in the portrayal of asthma as an environmental disease may weaken regulators' ability to act in passing air pollution reforms by lowering the public's interest and concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-900
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Asthma
  • Dominant epidemiological paradigm
  • Environmental health
  • Media
  • Newspapers
  • Risk
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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