The Sensitives: The Rise of Environmental Illness and the Search for America’s Last Pure Place

S. & S. Jul. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781982128500. $27. HEALTH
Journalist Broudy introduces readers to the world of environmental illness (EI). Those who live with EI are highly sensitive to a wide variety of environmental irritants, everything from perfume to mold to new carpets, and sometimes refer to themselves as “sensitives.” When they are triggered, sensitives can experience an array of symptoms, from typical allergic reactions to headaches to a feeling of constant malaise that varies from mild to severe. Many are dismissed by traditional medicine and have difficulty finding a doctor who will listen. Broudy travels through the Southwest with one sensitive, James, on the trail of a man who was a leader in the EI community but then dropped out of sight. On the journey, Broudy and James encounter other sensitives and the doctors who treat them; the physicians are often themselves members of the EI community who switched specialties after becoming sensitive.
VERDICT Throughout this balanced account, Broudy weaves a history of the mind-body connection, the chemical industry, and the specialty of allergy-immunology, providing a solid introduction to a widespread but often invisible problem.

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