Is it My Imagination or Are Food Allergies on the Rise?

Posted 7.18.13 | Christine Graham-Garo

No, it’s not your imagination.  According the CDC, there has been an 18% rise in food allergies in children since 1999.  What could be the cause? A new study suggests that increased pesticide exposure may be linked to the rise in childhood food allergies. Dichlorophenols (DCP) are used in pesticides, chemicals to purify water, and air fresheners. The study found that people with DCP metabolites in their urine are more likely to have one or more food allergies.  The study also showed that those with food allergies were more likely to have environmental allergies. DCPs have a strong antibacterial effect resulting in damage to microflora in the environment thus limits our exposure to germs. The hygiene hypothesis theorizes that our lack of exposure to germs increases our risk of allergies.  You can read more here.

You might be wondering if there’s anything that you can do to limit your exposure to DCPs. While we can’t control what kind of cleaners and air fresheners are used in public spaces, we can control what kind of food we purchase and cleaning products that we bring into our home.    As stated in the article, DCP exposure is most likely to happen through chlorinated water, pesticides used in foods, cleaning products and air fresheners, so changing what your consuming in those areas should result in lower DCP intake.

Since we eat 3-5 times a day, buying organic food (or growing your own!) is a good place to start if you want to decrease your pesticide exposure. Certainly you can go all organic if your budget will allow. What about those of us who can’t buy all organic foods? Are we doomed to pesticide exposure? No, there is something you can do about it!  Some foods have low pesticide residue even when grown conventionally while others have higher pesticide levels.  If you can’t afford all organic take a look at the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen” lists created by the Environmental Working Group.   Foods on the “Dirty Dozen” list are highest in pesticides so are worth buying organic. The “Clean Fifteen” are conventionally grown foods that have the lowest pesticide levels. EWG also has a guide on nontoxic cleaning products. Or you can do like my Mom did and make your own cleaner with baking soda, vinegar and lemon. Sometimes, Mom really does know best.


Let us know here what you do to minimize your family’s exposure to pesticides.

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.