Air pollution and health: Do popular portrayals reflect the scientific evidence?
Environmentalists, regulators, health scientists, and journalists are the main purveyors of information on air pollution health risks. Unfortunately, these groups create the appearance that harm from air pollution is much greater and more certain than suggested by the underlying evidence. The incentives in air pollution health research encourage risk exaggeration, because information purveyors depend on public fear to maintain their funding and influence. Investigative reporters are in the best position to assess how the political economy of environmental health research affects the production and portrayal of the evidence. Public debate on air pollution will continue to proceed from false premises until journalists take up this challenge.