Water Purifying Chemical Linked to Food Allergy

in Food Allergy
Published: December 3, 2012

A new study suggests that high levels of dichlorophenols – used in pesticides and in the chlorination of water – may play a role in the development of food and environmental allergies.

“Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy,” the study’s lead author Dr. Elina Jerschow, an allergist and assistant professor at New York’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine, said in a press release.

“This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water.”

The study, published in the December 2012 edition of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology), analyzed data from the 2005-06 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Of 10,348 patients, 2,548 had tested positive for dichlorophenols in their urine, and 2,211 of those people were included in Jerschow’s study. A significant relationship was found with the presence of the chemical: 1,016 of those with high levels of dichlorophenols had environmental allergies, while 411 of the patients had food allergies.

While the findings might sound like an argument to use bottled water to prevent potentially serious food allergies, Jerschow says that “other dichlorophenol sources, such as pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, may play a greater role in causing food allergy.”

Noting the significant rise in both food allergies and environmental pollutants in the past decade, Jerschow said: “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.”