IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Different frames, different fears: communicating about chlorinated drinking water and cancer in the Canadian media


  • Driedger, S. Michelle
  • Eyles, John


Risk issues become complicated when scientific evidence concerning a potential environmental exposure is equivocal; particularly when many argue that the public health benefits of a policy action outweigh any potential negative health effects. Chlorinated drinking water, and chlorinated disinfection byproducts (CDBPs) that are formed during the disinfection process, represent a useful case-study for examining these complications. We conduct a media analysis of chlorinated drinking water stories in the Canadian print media from 1977 to 2000. We examine media presentations of science compared to framings by scientists, regulators, the chlorine industry, water utility representatives, and non-governmental organizations of the CDBP issue based on key informant interviews. We argue that there are two main framings of the debate, each of which are powerful in constructing risk perceptions. On the one hand, many frame the debate as a 'voluntary' risk: we choose chlorine disinfection to protect against microbial risks with a possible adverse consequence of that protection. On the other hand, others frame the issue as an 'involuntary' risk: chlorine disinfection was a 'choice' imposed by public health and water utility officials; a choice that carries a potential cancer risk, and alternative disinfection technologies are advocated. We demonstrate these different frames by examining metaphorical constructs of water, chlorine and cancer contained within them.

Suggested Citation

  • Driedger, S. Michelle & Eyles, John, 2003. "Different frames, different fears: communicating about chlorinated drinking water and cancer in the Canadian media," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1279-1293, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:6:p:1279-1293

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:6:p:1279-1293. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.