(CBS Local)– There are over 50 million people in the United States living with environmental illness.

As Oliver Broudy discovered in his Simon & Schuster book “The Sensitives: The Rise Of Environmental Illness And The Search For America’s Last Pure Place,” chemicals can impact people who suffer from EI in many different ways. Some people with this illness are smell sensitive to things like perfume and bleach, while others need to live in the woods in order to avoid any chemicals in their lives. Broudy went on a cross country trip with one man who suffers from environmental illness and met many others in order to write this book.

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“I got exposed to this world in the summer of 2016 and randomly stumbled across this community and was immediately fascinated for several reasons,” said Broudy. “First because you couldn’t really tell whether what they were experiencing was real or not. There was a great deal of debate about as to whether this disease or syndrome or whatever you want to call it is a real thing. There are some scientists and doctors who say this is totally made up and it’s all in their head. Then you have people who are suffering from it saying actually, no. If cancer was the defining disease of the 20th century, surely this will be the defining of the 21st century.”


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During his trip, Broudy discovered a community of people living in Arizona that are all suffering from varying degrees of environmental illness. One reason the author wrote the book is to shine a light on how these people live every single day.

“One defining characteristic of them is that they are always moving from one house to the next habitat,” said Broudy. “Many of them are in fact called runners because that’s what they been doing most of their lives. They’re just on the run. On the run from civilization in a way and there’s no way they can stop. A lot of them ended up in national parks or Walmart parking lots living out of cars, cars that have been stripped of a lot of the electrical gear and electronics so they won’t mess with their heads. In the end, you’v run from so much and you’re standing on this tiny little patch of land and in effect it’s like you’re living on an alien planet.”

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“The Sensitives: The Rise Of Environmental Illness And The Search For America’s Last Pure Place” goes on sale July 14 wherever books are sold.