Environmental Stigma: Resident Responses to Living in a Contaminated Area

Jie Zhuang, Jeff Cox, Shannon Cruz, James W. Dearing, Joseph A. Hamm, Brad Upham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article examined the extent to which residents living in the Midland–Saginaw–Bay City area in Eastern Michigan felt stigmatized due to industrial contamination. Seventy in-depth interviews were conducted with local residents, focusing on the extent to which they experienced three aspects of stigma—affective, cognitive, and behavioral. Results indicated that although some participants were not concerned with living in a contaminated community, local residents largely perceived dioxin as a risk to individual health and the local environment. Concern, shock, and irritation were typical affective responses at the time participants learned of the contamination. Several participants indicated a feeling of embarrassment and fear of being rejected by others because of the stigma associated with industrial contamination. Instead of actively seeking information about dioxin contamination and remediation, participants often relied on information provided to them by government officials. Behaviorally, participants avoided eating locally caught fish and prepared fish more carefully in order to avoid exposure to contaminants. As a whole, this study provided insight to understand affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses to environmental stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1322-1341
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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