What happens in a community when it is contaminated by a dangerous chemical? Do residents trust authorities to clean up the contamination? What if the polluting company is also the major employer? Do residents take behavioral precautions to limit their exposure to the chemical? These are some of the questions posed by a research team based in the Michigan State University Department of Communication.
The team, which includes faculty and students in Environmental Studies, Criminal Justice, Biology and Pediatrics, along with colleagues in communication at Oregon State University (Shannon Cruz) and Texas Christian University (Jackie Zhuang) has collected data from residents along the Tittabawassee River and Saginaw River Watershed in Michigan, an area polluted with dioxin by Dow Chemical Company. Clean up has been completed along some areas in the watershed, as overseen by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The team has collected interview and survey data, a content analysis of news coverage, and is now finishing a study of effects of contamination on property values of residents’ homes.
The team recently gathered at the MSU Student Union (pictured) to plan its next 18 months of work. This program of research is funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.