Imagine what life would be like if you were allergic to cellphones, computers, cars, even radio frequencies. In short, imagine being allergic to modern life.
It's a conundrum that would likely seem unimaginable for most -- but for some people in this world, it is a hurdle that is all too real.
Barbara Lewis from Dallas, Tex., for example, has a condition known as chemical and electrical sensitivity, and she is "convinced that nearly everything in the modern world is making her sick."
According to WFAA, Lewis cannot use cellphones, televisions, computers or cars; she avoids plastic, covers part of her living room wall "with aluminum foil to block a cable box inside" and wears a gas mask when she goes outside.
“It’s a hard life,” she told the station. “It’s challenging.”
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The staggering limitations of Lewis' life boggle the mind. But incredibly, the 53-year-old woman is not alone in her plight.
In 2006, the BBC reported that a woman named Louise Solomons suffers from a similar disorder called multiple chemical sensitivity.
Diagnosed in 1988, Solomons is "allergic to the things that are part and parcel of the 21st Century," including many everyday chemical-based products such as perfume and furniture polish.
Solomons also told the BBC that she had started having reactions to electricity. Describing her life as "unbearably bleak," Solomons said that the stigma that surrounds the disorder makes coping with it even more challenging.
"People like me are treated like pariahs and acceptance of the condition comes hard," she said. "But do you think I would have given up a satisfying life to live in the middle of nowhere with ghastly symptoms if I had a choice?"
According to reports, some doctors and scientists are skeptical or dismissive of chemical and electrical sensitivities, with some saying that the condition may be psychosomatic.
"People who are intolerant of chemicals in everyday products or the environment often find their problems ignored or brushed aside by other people, even their doctors," wrote HuffPost blogger Leo Galland in a post about chemical sensitivities this August.
But, as WFAA notes, there are doctors who say that the conditions are very real and should be recognized as such.
"It’s a real phenomenon, and people are going to have to look into it more and more as time goes on,” said Dr. William Rea, who says he treats "hundreds of people for chemical and electrical sensitivity" at his clinic, the Environmental Health Center.
According to the BBC, Michael Clark, who in 2006 was the scientific spokesman for UK's Health Protection Agency, concurred.
"We don't contest that some people get some disabling symptoms which are very real," he said of electrical sensitivity, adding that there has been "evidence that some people are sensitive to some chemicals."