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J Health Soc Behav. 2008 Dec;49(4):417-35.

Pollution comes home and gets personal: women's experience of household chemical exposure.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA. Rebecca_Altman@alumni.brown.edu


We report on interviews conducted with participants in a novel study about environmental chemicals in body fluids and household air and dust. Interviews reveal how personal and collective environmental history influence the interpretation of exposure data, and how participants fashion an emergent understanding of environmental health problems from the articulation of science and experience. To the illness experience literature, we contribute a framework for analyzing a new category of embodied narratives--"exposure experience"--that examines the mediating role of science. We update social scientific knowledge about social responses to toxic chemicals during a period in which science alters public understanding of chemical pollution. This article is among the first published accounts of participants' responses to learning personal exposure data, research identified as critical to environmental science and public health. Our findings raise the importance of reporting even uncertain science and underscore the value of a community-based reporting strategy

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