February 25, 2016

 Environmental Exposures

Worried sick about your air or soil quality?

It is normal to experience stress and worry if you believe you or your family may have been exposed to environmental contamination. Stress can take a toll on your quality of life and emotional and physical well-being.

Persistent stress may lead to serious health problems, such as depression, chronic anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Why are potential environmental exposures so stressful?

  • Feeling unsafe at home It is very important for people to feel safe in their homes. Potential environmental contamination near or in the home may create deep-seated feelings of anxiety and helplessness.
  • Fear for health of loved ones, especially children Parents want to protect their children from anything that may cause them harm. Exposure to contamination that parents have little or no control over may cause them to feel unable to fulfill the very important role of creating a healthy environment for their children.
  • Uncertainty The health risks from exposure to environmental contaminants over time are often difficult to define. This uncertainty makes it hard for individuals to decide how real a threat is and makes choosing protective action very difficult. The invisibility of these toxic exposures contributes significantly to the uncertainty. Exposure to contaminants may result in effects years or decades later. The uncertainty of when or if there will be effects  makes it more difficult for the affected individual to have a sense of close Interpersonal conflict. Different views of the problems and solutions surrounding environmental contamination in a community come about naturally. If not dealt with, these differences can create tension or conflict in a neighborhood or small community.
  • Lengthy process The process of evaluating and cleaning up an area that is contaminated can take years. For individuals who believe their family’s health is at risk, waiting for this process to be completed can be very stressful.
  • Financial burden Medical tests, legal fees and fear of depreciating property values may put a financial burden on families affected by environmental contamination.

Psychological and Emotional Stress Among Portland Residents

Residents of Southeast and North Portland have expressed concern and worry over
the effects that potential exposure to metals in industrial emissions, such as
cadmium, arsenic and chromium
Residents who continue to experience persistent
fear over time may experience chronic stress symptoms. Even though it may not be
visually apparent to others, potential environmental exposures can be a traumatic
event for those affected. Even after the situation has been remedied, sounds,
images, and events (i.e. the wind blowing, dust, or children playing outside) may
trigger a stressful reaction.

Signs that Stress Management Assistance is Needed

  • Depression, sadness, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Limited attention span and difficulty concentrating
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt
  • Mood swings or crying easily
  • Headaches/stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor work performance
  • Reluctance to leave home
  • Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone
  • Increased use of drugs/alcohol.

If feelings become overwhelming, call the Multnomah County Crisis Line 24/7 at 503-988-4888.

Stress and Worry and Environmental Stress (325.53 KB)