Community reappraisal of the perceived health effects of a petroleum refinery
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This paper presents results from a study of the community health impacts of a petroleum refinery in Oakville, Ontario in Canada. The research is informed by the environmental stress and coping literatures and the focus is on community reappraisal of the refinery's impacts before and after the implementation of a substantive odour reduction initiative on the part of the refinery operators. Community health surveys were conducted in 1992 (n = 391) and 1997 (n = 427) to examine changes in odour perception and annoyance and self-reported health status attributable to the odour reduction plan. The findings reported here suggest an on-going process of cognitive reappraisal, whereby negative perceptions and concerns decreased between 1992 and 1997. Irrespective of this positive reappraisal of the refinery efforts, those living close to the refinery continue to report negative health impacts. A strong mediating effect of odours on the refinery exposure-symptom reporting relationship was confirmed by our results. While the relationship between odour perception and symptom reporting indicates the importance of odour perception and annoyance as the principal mechanism mediating ill-health reporting, the plausibility of other causal pathways is recognized. Residents' sensitivity to the negative effects of the refinery on their health and the health of their children suggests a psychosocial reaction to the environmental stress associated with perceived and actual refinery emissions.
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