Another reason to eat organic; commonly used pesticide ingredient linked to food allergies; the chemical is also used to chlorinate tap water

December 11, 2012

Over the past 20 years, the number of people allergic to milk, eggs, wheat nuts and shellfish has soared, jumping by 18% between 1997 and 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; but why? A newly published study reported that high levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides and to chlorinate water, could be partially to blame; when found in the body the chemicals are connected with food allergies. Allergist Elina Jerschow, M.D., M.Sc., the lead author of the study states as reported by the website Science Daily "Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy," and also "This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water."

Among 2,211 participants in a US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who had dichlorophenols measured in their urine - food allergy was found in 411 of these participants, while an environmental allergy was found in 1,016. Environmental allergies are allergic reactions to something at normally inoffensive levels that are commonly encountered in a persons environment. Common environmental allergens include dust mites, dog or cat dander, or cleaning agents. "Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States," said Dr. Jerschow. "The results of our study suggest these two trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies."

Rationally one might think that drinking bottled water instead of tap water might reduce the risk for developing an allergy, but according to the study the strategy may not work because "Other dichlorophenol sources, such as pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, may play a greater role in causing food allergy," according to Dr. Jerschow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an increase in the incidence of food allergies of 18 percent between the years 1997 to 2007 and that they affect about 15 million Americans. The study is published in the December issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI),