Food allergies in the U.S.are on the rise, and have been for years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates food allergies affect up to 15 million people including one in 13 children in the U.S. And now, a new study suggests that people exposed to high levels of common chemicals used in many home products and chlorinated drinking water could be to blame.
The study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, indicated that people exposed to higher levels of chemicals called dichlorophenols (DCPs) were more likely to develop food allergies. DCPs are created when common pesticides, including chlorinated chemicals used to purify drinking water, begin to break down. The chemicals can also be found in moth balls, air fresheners, deodorizer cakes in urinals, and certain herbicides sprayed on crops.
The study is based on the 'hygiene hypothesis,' a medical theory originally proposed thirty years ago, which supposes that the cleaner we keep our environment, the sicker we become, since our immune system doesn't have the opportunity to grow stronger by meeting and fighting off infections.
People with the highest levels of DCPs in their bodies were twice as likely to have a food allergy as those with low levels of DCPs. And, of those studies, nearly all had detectable levels of DCPs in their bodies.
In addition, people with high levels of DCPs were 61 percent more likely to have a food allergy and an environmental allergy to something like pollen or pet dander.
"Previous research indicated that both environmental pollution and the prevalence of food allergies are increasing in the United States. The results of this study suggest that these two phenomena might be linked," the lead researcher wrote.
Eight types of foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergy reactions: cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts), fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.