Pesticides in Tap Water Cause Food Allergy

First Posted: Dec 03, 2012 06:51 AM EST

Food allergies are a growing public health concern. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4 percent to 6 percent of U.S. children under 18 have food allergies.

With 12 million Americans allergic to one food item or another, allergists from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) have focused on this in order to find traces of the causative agent.

According to the study, food allergies are on the rise partially due to the presence of pesticides in tap water. High levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides and to chlorinate water, when found in the human body, are associated with food allergies.

"Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy," said allergist Elina Jerschow, M.D., M.Sc, . ACAAI fellow and lead study author. "This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water."

They focused on the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006 in which 10, 348 participants had participated, out of which 2,548 had dichlorophenols measured in their urine and 2,211 were included into the study.

Nearly 411 participants had food allergy while 1,016 had an environmental allergy.

"Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the U.S.," said Dr. Jerschow. "The results of our study suggest these 2 trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies."

A better way to reduce the risk of developing an allergy is by opting for bottled water instead of tap water.

"Other dichlorophenol sources, such as pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, may play a greater role in causing food allergy," said Dr. Jerschow.

The new study is published in the December issue of Annals of allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal ACAAI.

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