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The Invisibility of Environmental Illness


What if you were only able to leave a room once a year?

People with environmental illnesses suffer from extreme sensitivities to chemicals. And the medical community has been slow to recognize something from which millions of Americans suffer.

What is known about these mysterious illnesses? And what support is available for people who experience them?

A 1A listener, Thilde Jensen, has documented people with environmental illnesses through her photography. She shared some images with us, and wrote these captions. 


Mother and daughter, sick since age 5. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012. She got sick from a combination of a very high dose of mercury in a vaccination and pesticides in her bedroom.

Thilde Jensen


Rita is sensitive to everything. Tucson, Arizona, 2011 She only leaves this room once a year for a doctor’s visit.

Thilde Jensen


In my tent. Liberty, New York, 2004.

Thilde Jensen


Randy in his car and home for many years. Tucson, Arizona, 2005. Randy got sick as a bus driver in California. The buses were sprayed with pesticides and also had problems with diesel exhaust leaking back into the bus.

Thilde Jensen


Mom and twins. Prescott Valley, Arizona, 2011 Karen, Sam and Nate are all severely sensitive. Most days, they don’t have the energy to get out of bed. I was later told that no one had been allowed inside their tiny safe house for five years before I was there and not again since.

Thilde Jensen


Jen awaking from her frozen state after exposure to perfume. Small Woods, New York, 2008 Jen often gets paralyzed after exposure to chemicals. She says the effort to simply open her eyes feels like lifting a truck. It is painful and followed by violent convulsions and shakes.

Thilde Jensen

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Avery Kleinman