Psychopathological Consequences of Exposure to Toxins in the Water Supply
This chapter presents a study reporting that a group of individuals exposed to toxins in their water supply showed impaired psychological functioning when tested several years after the event. Exposure to toxins results from the failure of technology or the failure of humans to control it, and as such it has somewhat different implications from those of natural disasters like earthquakes. The litigants who formed the population for the study lived in the area of Legler, New Jersey, surrounding a landfill that began operation in 1973. In the following years, rashes and other health problems led to a concern in residents that toxins might be being dumped and contaminating the water supply. Social support is widely believed to have an ameliorating effect on reactions to stress. The presence of other victims during disaster can make the individual feel less personally victimized. A social network can provide both material and emotional support to the victim.