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Food Allergy Risk Could be Due to Water Purifier Chemical: Study

Update Date: Dec 03, 2012 06:20 AM EST

The recent surge in food allergies could be due to a byproduct of chemicals used to help purify water, a new study claims.

The study found that people exposed to high levels of dichlorophenols are more likely to get food allergies.

Dichlorophenols are produced when chlorine is added to water to make it clean and get rid of bugs.

"Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy. This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water," Elina Jerschow, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

For the study, researchers looked at the incidence of food allergies among 2,211 people and a detailed urine test was conducted for those with the highest level of dichlorophenols.

According to researchers, the people with highest levels of dichlorophenols had 80 percent more chances of falling victim to food allergy than others.

"In this population, we found consistent associations between high levels of dichlorophenol exposure and a higher prevalence of food allergies," they concluded.

The study revealed that people with the highest amount of the chemical had a 61 percent higher chance of contracting not only food allergy, but 'environmental' allergy (for example to pollen) as well, according to the report.

"Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States. 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," Dr. Jerschow said.

However, she said that more studies were required before this link could be established.

Even if this link could be strongly established on the basis of evidence, avoiding tap water may not be the solution, Dr. Jerschow cautioned. Pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables would still pose a potential threat, she said.

The study was published in journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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