Media reporting on air pollution: Health risk and precautionary measures in national and regional newspapers

Steven Ramondt*, A. Susana Ramírez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Exposure to air pollution is one of the primary global health risk factors, yet individuals lack the knowledge to engage in individual risk mitigation and the skills to mobilize for the change necessary to reduce such risks. News media is an important tool for influencing individual actions and support for public policies to reduce environmental threats; thus, a lack of news coverage of such issues may exacerbate knowledge deficits. This study examines the reporting of health risks and precautionary measures regarding air pollution in national and regional print news. We conducted a content analysis of two national and two local newspapers covering the USA’s most polluted region during a 5-year period. Coders identified information on threat, self-efficacy, protective measures and information sources. Nearly 40% of air pollution news articles mentioned human health risks. Fewer than 10% of news stories about air pollution provided information on the precautionary measures necessary for individuals to take action to mitigate their risk. Local newspapers did not report more threat (Χ2 = 1.931, p = 0.165) and efficacy (Χ2 = 1.118, p = 0.209) information. Although air pollution levels are high and continue to rise at alarming rates, our findings suggest that news media reporting is not conducive to raising environmental health literacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6516
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2020


  • Advocacy
  • Air pollution
  • Efficacy
  • Environment health
  • Environmental health literacy
  • Health communication
  • Health promotion
  • Newspapers
  • Public health
  • Risk communication


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