Media coverage of mercury contamination in the Canadian Arctic

  • Amanda D. Boyd The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, USA
  • Michelle L. Fredrickson The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, USA
  • Chris M. Furgal Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences Program, Trent University, Canada
Keywords: Arctic, risk communication, perceptions, contaminant, Indigenous health, traditional foods

Abstract

Mercury contamination in the Canadian Arctic is a significant concern. Some traditional food sources are contaminated by mercury and pose a health risk to local residents. Media can affect public awareness and opinions of environmental health risks. Therefore, it is important to understand how the risks associated with contaminants are communicated through the media. To better understand how the issue of mercury contamination in the Arctic has been presented in the media, a content analysis was conducted across 14 newspapers in the Canadian North and South. We examined how news sources presented the health risks of mercury in the Arctic, how mercury was defined, if pathways for self-efficacy (i.e., how a person can reduce his or her exposure to a hazard) were provided and who was quoted as an information source. Results demonstrate that few Indigenous people were cited as information sources, articles often failed to describe mercury to the reader and many did not provide direction to support self-efficacy. This study provides insight into how newspapers have communicated about mercury in the Canadian Arctic and suggests specific ways that this communication can be improved.

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Published
2019-10-21
How to Cite
Boyd, A. D., Fredrickson, M. L., & Furgal, C. M. (2019). Media coverage of mercury contamination in the Canadian Arctic. Polar Research, 38. https://doi.org/10.33265/polar.v38.3353
Section
Research Articles