Pesticide exposure may trigger food allergies

A survey in the US, led by Elina Jerschow from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Bronx, New York, has tested the links between dichlorophenol exposure and allergic sensitisation in 2211 people aged 6 years and over.

Dichlorophenols are chemicals found in pesticides and also used for chlorinating water.

All the people involved were included in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-6.  Exposure to dichlorophenols was measured through urine samples – high concentration of dichlorophenols were defined as such if they were in the 75th percentile of the population or above.

The prevalence of food and environmental allergies were measured by the serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels, and included shrimp, peanut, egg and milk for food, and white oak, birch, mouse and rat for environment. After adjusting for variables, the researchers found that  those with high levels of dichlorophenols in their urine were 80% more likely to be sensitised to at least one food.

Those who had been exposed to two or more dichlorophenol metabolites were more likely to have one or more food allergies than those one no exposure. These people were also 61% more likely to be allergic to food and environmental allergens at the same time.

More research is needed, but this study strongly suggests that there is a link between the chemicals used for chlorinating water and in pesticides and the rising incidence of allergies in the US.

Source: Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology



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First Published in October 2012

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