Media coverage on electromagnetic fields and health: Content analysis of Dutch newspaper articles and websites

E.A.M. Claassen, T. Smid, F. Woudenberg, D.R.M. Timmermans

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    The way health risks of electromagnetic fields are portrayed in the media may shape public concerns that the growing exposure to electromagnetic fields in daily life constitutes a health hazard. We analysed the content of information on electromagnetic fields and health in Dutch media to identify aspects that might be linked to the public perception of electromagnetic fields. A systematic search was performed on archives of five major Dutch newspapers (from March 2008 to March 2010) and on the internet (in April 2010). Content analyses included the identification of main characteristics and the context or frame in which the information can be clearly understood. We identified 155 newspaper articles and 23 relevant websites. Analyses showed that the media content often suggested a negative relationship between electromagnetic field exposure and health but lacked detailed information about research, technical aspects, possible biological mechanisms and regulation policy. Regional media predominantly featured conflicts around the placing of electromagnetic equipment. Across all media, information on electromagnetic fields and health was mostly framed in terms of precaution and concern. We conclude that the content does not reflect a scientific perspective, focusing on the nature of and exposure to electromagnetic fields, potential biological mechanisms, the evidence and the magnitude of health effects, but rather seems to follow a layman's perspective of risk. We also discuss ways to improve on the quality of media coverage on electromagnetic fields. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)681-696
    JournalHealth risk & society
    Volume14
    Issue number7-8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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