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Posted on April 2nd, 2012, by

Urban environmental stress: its essence, factors, causes and effects

Environmental stress is a stress caused by long-term impact of environmental factors of different origin, different modalities and different intensities. Environmental stress existed before, but now they have acquired the pandemic character because of the following trends: urbanization; accelerating life pace; widespread human contact with dangerous technologies and harmful substances; the existence of nuclear weapons; the range of unresolved complex, intense social and political situations (Bennett, 2006).

Environmental stress is determined by the influence of extreme environmental conditions or by their expectation, e.g. air and water pollution, severe weather conditions, evil-minded neighbors, chemical, noise, electromagnetic, and even informational “pollution”ť of the environment, etc.

Environmental stress factors are very simple and comprise everything that doesn’t correspond to natural way of life. We artificially prolong the duration of the light period of day using the electric lighting, which is unnatural. We live in the environment permeated by electromagnetic fields: television, radio, mobile phones, microwave ovens, computer monitors, etc. Each of these fields is, of course, limited to hygiene standards, but they overlap, a particular person in a particular city apartment lives in a kind of uncontrolled “explosive mixture”ť of them (Chew, 2006).

A simple fact: the majority of New York dwellers live in tower buildings. But for a man a long stay at a height greater than the tree crowns is unnatural. The artificial microclimate, the use of air conditioners discourages our immune system. The use of technical means, which move faster than people could move themselves or with the help of domesticated animals, is not natural either. Prolonged flights or trips associated with the change of time zone are especially harmful to the organism, as they trigger the breakdown of its biological rhythms (Bennett, 2006).

Thus, life in urban policies, like New York for instance, is determined by a complex of factors. The main ones are the abiotic factors (climate, soil and water basin of the region, the atmosphere and its chemical composition, specificity of urban housing, pollution from human activities, etc.); biotic factors (synanthropic and anthropogenic ecosystem types, land cover, structure and dynamics of population, biological indicators of food, etc.); social factors (economy and household forms, urban transport, waterworks and energy supply, information communications, etc.); genetic and biological factors (genetic programming of human life, marriage links, migrations, differential mortality and fertility, etc.).

Among the abiotic factors the air condition is the most important. It is known that carbon monoxide produced by industrial enterprises and vehicles, reacting with hemoglobin in the blood, causes suffocation and allergies, and sulfur dioxide in contact with moist air transforms into sulfuric acid, which impacts the lungs. No less harmful is the dust penetrating the alveoli of the lungs, as well as carcinogenic lead derivatives. In this regard, the strained transport lines are especially contaminated, the ecological situation is also unfavorable in industrial zones, where a fairly large segment of population lives. Urban population is very sensitive to noise and vibration: the noise of over 80 decibels causes headaches, deafness, nervous disorders, reduced productivity, etc (Fuchs, 2001).

Characterizing biotic factors, we should note that the city ecosystem (parks and green areas) suffers most from people who trample, destroy the green cover of urban landscape, deforestation in the suburban zones of New York, etc.(Smit, 2009).

Anthropogenic factors lead to the change in the real environment of the evolution flow and man’s life. Thus, for example, as a result of ever-increasing replacement of natural phytocenoses by artificial ones, and suppression of photosynthesis by noxious gases, the photosynthetic efficiency of vegetation decreases. Simplification of biocenoses structure changes the intensity of the forms of struggle for existence, which leads to a significant change in speed and direction of the evolutionary process (Baquero, 2009).

Finally, being the cause of the elimination of plant and animal species and reduction of their numbers and habitat, man contributes to the spreading of other species and ecosystems (e.g., insects and microorganisms resisting to pesticides and antibiotics). As a result of human influence (as a selective factor) the high reproductible species progress (weeds, microorganisms, insects, small rodents, etc.)

The type of food is also the environmental loading for the residents of megapolis like New York. In the human food chains, the transition from one link to another is reduced to the depolymeriation of materials of the previous link to some simple elements, and to their re-synthesizing in the structure of the organism. Therefore, substances that contaminate food (pesticides, chemical preservatives, etc.) accumulate in the body producing genetically-mutagenic and phenotypical (food poisoning, allergies) effects.

Finally, the excess of information is a stress. People are forced to consume too much information in too short a time, thus overloading the nervous system (Rose, 2009). The violation of the psychological environment also causes stresses – the so-called cultural stress, that is, cultural stereotypes and rules of conduct that prevent the free emotional self-expression of a man (Schmitt, 2008).

Environmental stresses associated with high physical, neurological and psychological overload in connection with living in a life-threatening external environment, are harmful to human health, which affects work efficiency of large groups of people and their creative work. Environmental stress can trigger diseases and unpredictable behavioral responses. Environmental stress is the source of destructive elements in people’s lives, in their behavior.

Environmental stresses make public opinion more receptive to ultra-radical slogans, myths, rumors.

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