Water

The recent rise in food allergies may have a cause, according to new research from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: pesticides common in tap water.

Between 1997 and 2007, food allergies diagnosed in children and teenagers have risen by nearly 20 percent, according to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common food allergies include dairy, seafood (mainly shellfish), nuts, soy, corn, eggs and wheat.

Using existing government data, researchers looked at urine levels of dichlorophenols, a type of chlorine pesticide known to kill bacteria and commonly found in trace amounts in drinking water.

The researchers found that where there were higher levels of the pesticides, there was also a greater risk for food allergies. Because the dichlorophenols kill bacteria, the team theorized that the chemicals could also be killing key bacteria in the human digestive system and could be leading to the allergies by making the digestion process more sensitive and less capable of performing immune function.

Recent data also shows a correlation between the rise in digestive disorders, including wheat and gluten intolerances, to the increase of genetically modified organisms in our food system. GMOs began entering our food supply in 1996 and digestive orders have increased on par with GMOs. More than 80 percent of processed foods available in U.S. supermarkets now contain genetically modified ingredients. The culprit there may not be the GMO technology, but again the use of pesticides. Genetically modified seeds are designed to either express a pesticide through the plants’ genes, or resist heavy applications of pesticides. The common pesticides used kill insects by disrupting their digestion.

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Image: Allie Holzman