Monday, December 10, 2012

Chemicals and Food Allergies

In a recent post I mentioned that food allergies and intolerances often accompany chemical sensitivities. Last week, an article in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reported on a study which found an association between body levels of certain chemicals known as dichlorophenols and sensitization to food allergens. The authors conclude that "excessive use of dichlorophenols may contribute to the increasing incidence of food allergies in westernized societies."

Reports of the study found on WebMD and CBS sites among others note the following:
  • Dichlorophenols are common and can be found in purified drinking water, insect killers, air fresheners, disinfecting cleaners, deodorizer cakes, moth balls and commercial and residential weed control products.

  • People found to have the highest levels of the chemicals in their bodies were nearly twice as likely to be sensitive to at least one food as were people with the lowest levels.

  • Food allergy rates are rising in the United States. Between 1997 and 2007, rates increased 18 percent.

  • Food allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems, respiratory distress, hives, and tingling in the mouth. The most serious food allergy symptom is anaphylaxis, a full-body reaction that can be fatal.

  • Because the chemicals are so widely used, the lead study author suggests that switching from tap water to bottled water is unlikely to reduce the body burden of dichlorophenols sufficiently. She notes that eating fewer pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables is a wise precaution.

This study provides one more in a long list of reasons to think twice (and then twice again) before using products designed to kill weeds, fungus, or insects in or around a home, church, or other public building. For links to studies associating pesticides with a wide variety of conditions, including diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, learning disabilities, Parkinson's disease, autism and cancer, see the resources provided by Beyond Pesticides. The group also provides information on the least toxic control of many common pests.

Studies are important. It has been said that knowledge is power. I would amend that to say that knowledge can be power. If we just read studies and don't let them change our behavior, knowledge is just knowledge. Individually none of us can change the world, but we each have more power than we might realize to significantly change our lives and the lives of those around us.

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