Menu

Portraits of American’s Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Danish photographer Thilde Jensen came to New York City in 1997. Six years later her life and career was cut short by a sudden development of severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). The urban life she had previously navigated with ease transformed into a toxic war zone. Her immune system crashed, forcing her unto a survivalistic journey, unravelling the comfort and construct of her previous life. The ensuing years were a lesson in basic survival – camping in the woods, while wearing a respirator when entering supermarkets, doctors’ offices, and banks. To her surprise an otherwise invisible subculture of people emerged who shared this isolated existence. Her photographs are a personal account of life on the edge of modern civilization as one of the human canaries, the first casualties to a ubiquitous synthetic chemical culture. Of her series ‘Canaries’ Thilde writes:

‘Since World War II the production and use of synthetic chemicals has exploded. During the course of an average day, people come in contact with a host of chemicals – Just walking into a supermarket one might be breathing as many as 20,000 different synthetic compounds. As a result of the prevalence of these synthetic chemicals, it is believed that more than ten million Americans have developed a disabling condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, (MCS).

MCS is a condition where our immune and central nervous system goes into extreme reactions when exposed to small amounts of daily chemicals like perfume, cleaning products, car exhaust, construction materials and pesticides. In addition, some people also react to light, fabrics, food and electromagnetic fields as emitted by computers, phones, cell towers, cars and florescent lights – making life a near impossibility. Many people with MCS are forced to live in remote areas in tents, cars, or trailers. Others are prisoners of their homes, with advanced air filter systems to keep outside air from contaminating their breathing space’.

thilde jensen photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

Thilde_Jensen_photography

  • http://BarkMark.com Mark Kalan

    Brilliant. At last a subject that isn’t cliche.

  • http://yosakime.wordpress.com/ YOSAKIME

    This IS MY WORLD for the last 12 years. It is isolating. Chilling. Scarey. Lonely. Undetermined. And becoming more populated with each passing year.

    MCS is real. And for many more people, who have no idea of its existence, it will become all TOO REAL, very fast.

    Educate yourself. You CAN avoid becoming another victim of MCS, but you must know how to do so and you must act upon it.

    As well, MCS could end in as little as 6 months. IF, the world would cut back on synthetic chemical use by 50%. End completely, if we broke the habit completely. But – the businesses say – ‘Where’s he profit in that?’ And that my fellow humans, is THE REASON more of you will join our isolated community.

    YOSAKIME

  • http://linkaaodom.com Linka

    very intense…great work

  • http://www.danielregan.com Daniel

    I’ve only recently discovered this site and as an MA student I’m finding it incredibly resourceful and inspiring. I had no idea that MCS existed – I’d never even heard of it. these portraits are incredibly and it’s led me to investigate what MCS is all about. So, bravo, this project is incredible!

    Daniel

  • http://backyardamy.blogspot.com Amy

    I have this. These photos are so real. There is so much that isn’t written, but it’s impossible to write it all. It affects every single aspect of one’s life. It sucks.

  • Annette Tweedel

    I have been having MCS for many years. It is very difficult to go places. Some buildings I cannot even go in. People need to be educated about chemicals. We try to do that, but we don’t know if it is working. Whether it is perfumes, colognes, washing powder, fabric softener sheets, air fresheners, etc.
    We are living in Louisiana and we are in need of a chemical free environment.
    People need to be made aware.
    Daniel, I appreciate the fact that you are understanding. We need more people like you. Please, do the research Daniel, educate yourself and help us spread the word about chemicals.
    Thank you.

  • Rita

    My son I developed MCS after exposure to malathion sprayed into our home by the health authorities in August 2010. The suffering is unbelievable and continues. Very few people know about MCS or even understand it.

  • Dina Liljeholm

    I have MCS and wish nobody ever had to get it . It’s so isolating and can be very stressfull to keep alive, but we mustn’t give up. I have had this condition for about 18 years. I’ve been homeless with four small children for two to three years because finding safe housing is very difficult especially when relying on government housing assistance,ect. I am also electrically sensitive. Even typing this at the library is making me sick. It’s hard to go any where for any length of time without feeling that I cannot breath. Don’t give up and I’m rooting for you all.

  • http://the-labyrinth.com miche

    These are amazing, they tell a true yet hidden story about our society and the ills set to haunt our futures. Problem is, there are many of us with this and sometimes it seems like the world keeps turning its back on us, like we don’t exist. I live with this, and I blog about it @ the-labyrinth.com

  • Annette Tweedel

    Hi, I wrote last year on this blog. Well, we found ourselves a healthy place to live. We moved out of Louisiana in July of last year and we are now living in Tucson, Arizona. But people still need to be educated. We are doing a walk-a-thon here in Tucson, Arizona on May 5, 2013, through the Jennifer Parker Foundation. I hope I worded that right. The Jennifer Parker Foundation pays to put it on. It is to raise awareness and funds for a healthy place to be built. If you want to know more about the walk-a-thon just go to the Jennifer Parker Foundation website and click on the link.

  • Alti Perea

    Is there anyone taking natural supplements that can help?

  • kim

    I take NAC, selinium, vit d, quercitin and molybdenum…http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=411571

  • cheryl

    I have lost everything and “everyone” due to MCS. I am 50, had to move in with my father as I lost my home, job, car and his house was older, so it seemed to be safer. Now, I have nothing. I try to function as a recluse, but cry every day because that is not who I am. I applied for Social Security, but must wait one year for even a court date. I am allowed $200 a month food assistance through the state, but usually by week 3 I have nothing left, as the food I must eat has to be organic and is so expensive in Northern Minnesota. I also have many other diseases now, along with severe arthritis in my back and neck, a brain aneurysm and much more. I have lost all of my family except for my father as none of them “understand”. My daughter doesn’t even let me see my grandkids anymore because I told her she couldn’t keep coming over with perfume and smelly shampoos. It made her mad, so she told me I was out of her life forever. And she meant it. There is no life lonelier than living with MCS, doctors think you are nuts, people don’t understand and being penniless and homeless is tough. I haven’t had 3 cents to my name in over a year. I can’t even buy the masks I need and my state health insurance won’t pay for anything. If I had the courage, I would just end it, but I love my father and could not do that to him. I only wish there were a cure……But most days, I wake up and just say Dammit, why did I have to wake up today? To just go to sleep and never wake up to this nightmare would be my ultimate dream.

  • Joni

    I’m writing a research paper for my grad class titled “Healing our Built Environment” and I’ve recently, while researching toxins and harmful building materials, stumbled on to MCS. This is incredibly disturbing and I feel deeply for you all – I’ve never heard of this before. I’m studying sustainable design and have a passion for just the title, healing our build environment to provide a safer, healthier world for future generations. We have brought upon these problems, and MCS, ourselves by allowing the use of these chemicals and synthetic compounds to perpetuate the problem. Your stories must be told and you’ve given me more motivation to dig deeper into the problem. Be well and don’t give up. (ANY reliable resources you can provide me with are greatly appreciated.)

  • Molly

    Annette Tweedel can you – or anyone else in Arizona – please email me! I am interested in Tucson (am in Oregon and can’t handle the cold winters) but really afraid of safety issues, need someone trustworthy to point us in the right direction (am a single Mom).

    Email: editor (@) southamericaliving.com (my website biz)

    thank you!

  • http://www.southamericaliving.com Molly

    And apologies… these are really awesome, intriguing shots… I would be interested in your book you are putting out… not what I expected, so much shown is usually ‘sad’ based, but these get the despondency message out (that this illness causes in sufferers) with some beauty and humaneness added-in. Really nice. I’m a novice travel photographer so are into these kinds of things :)

  • http://www.MCSLegalHelp.com Michael Walkup

    For those of you with MCS who have been struggling with the disability system, there is hope. I am an attorney with MCS. About 10 years ago I had to close my regular law practice, where I had ironically been doing a lot of disability law along with workers comp and PI, and move my practice into my home. Since then I have been helping people all over the USA who have MCS obtain disability benefits. We do everything by telephone, email, and mail so your location doesn’t matter. It’s not easy, and you have to get the right people to decide your case, plus put forward the best available documentation for your claim. Nevertheless, there have been victories.

    If you are interested in pursuing this, check my website and fill out the online form.

  • Julie Collins

    Hi. I’ve been struggling with MCS for the last year especially. I live in traverse city michigan, and working at (Oryana) a food coop with alot of organic food and built the green way however, I can only work 2 days a week there because of being constantly exposed to perfume and laundry/dryer sheet chemicals etc. thanks to the public. There are a few shoppers that come in wearing masks due to MCS. I know atleast 8 shoppers that are sensitive and worry for them too! Another big concern is lawn chemicals-pesticides they spray on golf courses, lawns, parks, on the cherry trees here. The air here must be so toxic. I started a petition on(change.org), against lawn chemicals and feel confident with determination and support to get a ban on these very toxic chemicals. It’s not just us. Children, our companion animals and the innocent wildlife stuck outdoors in this mess are suffering too! Start something in your cities too! That’s the only way for change. It’s up to us! Let’s get the chemicals out of stores, our homes and outside. Best healthy wishes, Julie

  • miriam

    Hello:
    I am a fifty one year old women who developed MCS in my early twenties. I continue to work and try to make a contribution despite challenges. I don’t quite get the public’s and medical communities lack of understanding. There are sanctuaries for chimps, for old horses, for all kinds of animals, but none for people who just need healthy places to live?

  • Julie Collins

    Miriam,
    It’s a good thing there are places for animals suffering too! And your right we do need healthy places to live and the public can’t keep shunning us away.And more and more people and children are developing these symptoms . So as long as it’s taking people to realize the seriousness of this,they can’t ignore it anymore,because this is very real and concerns their health too!. This is something humans have created so it’s up to humans to change their toxic ways and make it better for all that inherit this planet. We need a movement of some kind (All 50 states),where those of us suffering with MCS can force change (getting lawn and food pesticides banned,getting chemicals out of clothing and detergents etc.,contacting auto dealers to go green by using safe organic interior along with fazing out vehicles running on gas. I understand how difficult it is living with this condition so we have to ask the public (those free of these sensitivities) to help us make a change. It will make their lives healthier too!PEACE

  • http://www.paincamp.com Jen

    I have MCS (along with Central Sensitization Syndrome). I have noticed a difference since I started “detoxing” and “cleansing” a year ago. My sensitivity is still there but the reactions are not as immediate and they don’t seem to be as severe and long lasting. For instance, smelling perfume would immediately give me a migraine (well, within 5 minutes). Now after doing several detoxes, I may get a headache after being around it for 5-10 minutes. It is at least some progress. These pictures are great too! I started wondering about the chemtrails from the planes recently. I feel like the only way to truly avoid this is to live in an organically built house with nothing that will off gas and have 6 $1000 air purifiers in each room of the house and an ultra violet light virus/mold killer on the furnace. :) I’m obviously going to be exposed to some chemicals no matter what I do so it is best that I continue to detox on a regular basis. Thanks for the article and the photos! Great work!

  • Mario Casella

    I suffer from very severe mcs and I have to find somewhere where I can foil up a room or live outside I am in Tuscon AZ at a mans house whe also has mcs but not nearly as bad, he rents a room for $300 a week & I cannot afford to be here but a few more weeks. I was stranded out here when I was told to leave everything I owned at my fathers house because it was moldy & come to these peoples house in Arizona & they would rent me a room that would be made safe for me if I couldn’t tollerate it, or find me a place I can tolerate. They ended up putting me off their property with nothing without warning! And refused to help me with anything. I can only tolerate a foiled room or porcelain trailer, I am 38 and wat to live. I am really scared & have nowhere to go.

  • Dennis Mudloff

    It is only through awareness that things will change. Thilde is a brave woman for shining a light on what some have described as the plague of the 21st century. Woe to mankind if the warning signs continue to be ignored.

  • http://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca Elisabeth Hines

    Thank you for sharing information to help others.

    I too suffered horribly for many years from MCS, EI, CFS, depression and multiple food allergies to name just a few of my diagnoses. Avoidance was my initial and ongoing approach for years while I researched everything I could about all of my conditions – which all started after moving into a new home, that was in 1995..

    Now in 2013 I am:

    100% MCS free
    100% food allergy free
    100% depression free
    100% EI free
    Have excellent energy levels
    I can eat out in any restaurant or home and eat all foods without reactions.
    I can enter and stay in any room, building or anywhere without skewed responses.

    My note to all suffering with the above conditions is:

    1. Continue becoming educated and avoid triggers. This will allow your body time to stop hyper vigilance and reacting and concentrate it’s energies on repair and healing.

    2. Utilize strategies to reprogram your brain and body to stop mounting skewed, excessive and unwanted responses. This may require a paradigm shift in thinking.

    I have been able to duplicate my ‘symptom free’ status with clients. I share my protocol in my book THE WHOLE PERSON WELL-BEING EQUATION which is now available globally on Amazon.

    MCS sufferers can become 100% symptom free.!

    Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C.,C.B.P.
    Holistic Wellness Practitioner
    http://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca
    HEALTH BY DESIGN BLOGGER
    mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/

  • Cindy Hullings

    Is there anyone out there suffering from MCS who has found anything that helps? I suffer from this as well and have been researching online but it seems like the only people with answers are the ones who want to sell their books. It’s hard for me to put my faith in anyone who wants to profit from another’s suffering. As much as I’ve suffered with this, if I found answers I would give them away to whoever it would benefit.

    Cindy

  • Susan Burke

    Hi, I am one who has been suffering from MCS, some food antagonists and lately EMF sensitivity. But I have found a cure and I want to share it with all I can. It is my responsiblity and it came through a book that is available now called “Healing from Severe MCS and EMF Sensitivity” by Gary Prader. I am not making a dime. But two things I did, after two years of clearing the crap and detoxing, meditation, yoga and acupuncture. I started having cranialsacral therapy two a week, and I ordered a system by “EArth Calm” which sets the frequency of the home resonating at the same level as the earth. I had a dramatic and instant recovery. I feel amazing, and would love to share my knowledge of recovery. I was very sick from MCS and I was no fun to be around, I was not going to settle for that, as it was never my personality to begin with. Cranialsacral treatments align the spine and adjust the skull to free energy from trauma or pain that we have digested and not dealt with. This is a reactive disorder mostly due to stress from an experience we either forgot about or tucked deep inside to later cause us illness. Once we are in a fearful state, we can trigger the reaction in an instant, because we are in hyper mode. Anxiety, panic and fear are at the base. But the release of pent up sick energy is the cure. Start treatment instantly. Go organic. Take supplements. Detox the system, naturally and with far infrared saunas. Juice daily. And pray morning, noon and night for courage, wisdom and healing. I did and I am cured. My new mantra. I have no more MCS. Also use EFT, tapping, this is an incredible self-induced therapy and it works. Trust me. Just tap a pressure point on the head or chest area, stiffly, and briskly while counting to yourself, lighten the touch after two or three minutes and do it as often as necessary. It deactivates the central nervous system and calms it down. Also lay on the earth everyday or walk barefoot whenever possible. I will be glad to answer questions. I am a 54 year old mother of 3, married 18 years, living in a quaint little town all my life, that I will always call home. Good luck and be cured. Don’t attach this illness as your way of being in the world.

  • Annie Carvalho

    Oh my god, this is my life!

    In response to Cindy, I did Ashok Gupta’s amygdala retraining and it did help a bit. I’m able to go (quickly) into public places now. But I lived in my car and camped for many years while I fought a disability case and finally won. God bless all those canaries out there. The good side of the coin is that our bodies will not be tainted by all the chemicals so maybe some of the environmental illness bullets will miss us!

  • Ann Zimmerman

    The above and the blogs below are resoundingly true. “Allergic To Life”, in Nov.’13 Discover magazine describes the disease. Is there an M.D. in Florida who treats this?