The study reported that high levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides and to chlorinate water, are tied to food allergies when found in the human body.
Symptoms can range from a mild rash to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
“Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy,” said study lead Elina Jerschow, assistant professor of medicine (allergy and immunology), Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water,” added Jerschow, the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports.
A US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006, involving 10,348 people, found that 2,548 had dichlorophenols measured in their urine and 2,211 were included into the study.
Food allergy was found in 411 of these participants, while 1,016 had an environmental allergy, according to an Albert Einstein statement.
Opting for bottled water instead of tap water might seem to be a way to reduce the risk for developing an allergy, according to the study such a change may not be successful.
“Other dichlorophenol sources, such as pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, may play a greater role in causing food allergy,” said Jerschow.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase in food allergy of 18 percent was seen from 1997-2007. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish.
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