Disentangling the exposure experience: The roles of community context and report-back of environmental exposure data

  • Adams C
  • Brown P
  • Morello-Frosch R
 et al. 
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Abstract

This article examines participants' responses to receiving their results in a study of household exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds and other pollutants. The authors study how the "exposure experience"-the embodied, personal experience and understanding of chronic exposure to environmental pollutants-is shaped by community context and the report-back process itself. In addition, the authors investigate an activist, collective form of exposure experience. The authors analyze themes of expectations and learning, trust, and action. The findings reveal that while participants interpret scientific results to affirm lay knowledge of urban industrial toxics, they also absorb new information regarding other pollutant sources. By linking the public understanding of science literature to the illness and exposure experience concepts, this study unravels the complex relationship between lay experience and lay understanding of science. It also shows that to support policy development and/or social change, community-based participatory research efforts must attend to participants' understanding of science.

Author-supplied keywords

  • environmental health
  • exposure assessment
  • health social movements
  • illness experience
  • public involvement in science

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