“Our bodies are not strong anymore”: a focus group study on health risk perceptions of ambient air pollution near a petrochemical industry
Accepted: 8 March 2023
Supplementary material: 109
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Background. Ambient air pollution has persisted in lessendowed communities, resulting in exposure to unhealthy pollutants. Epidemiological studies on air pollution have been mainly quantitative, with a dearth of information on community health risk perception, a key component of risk management. Objectives. The aim of this focus group study was to highlight the health risk perception of ambient air pollution among people residing near a petrochemical industry and to determine their perceptions of the existing control measures and ideas for more effective control. Methods. Participants were purposefully selected based on age, sex, long-term residence near a petroleum refinery, and occupation. Three 90-minute face-to-face focus groups and one individual interview were conducted. The moderator guided discussions using a pre-formed topic guide. Discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed manually, and coded using NVivo software. The data analysis was conducted using reflexive thematic analysis. Results. Six themes were generated: negative perception of the environment; the refinery is to blame; air pollution is seen or smelled; air pollution is associated with health and non-health risks; poor response to air pollution- everyone is to blame and the government is primarily responsible for healthy air quality. The participants were not aware of the extent of air pollution’s health risks. Suggestions for air pollution control included regulating gas flaring, environmental health education, and incentives for community members. Conclusion. Participants perceived that their ambient air was unhealthy. However, concerns about the health risks were shaped by contextual factors. The key barriers to effective mitigation were poor environmental health literacy and political factors.
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