Research conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1997 and 2007 found an 18% increase in reported food allergies among children under the age of 17. What’s even more dramatic is the increase in the number of hospitalizations related to food allergies. In 2000, hospitals reported an average of 2,600 patient discharges related to food allegories. In 2003, that number grew to 4,100, and in 2006 there were 9,500.
Why is there such a significant increase in food allergies in children? This has been an area of substantial research and speculation, and now there is a new study that might offer more insights. Researchers are pointing to a chemical called dichlorophenol (DCP). This study concluded that children who are exposed to higher amounts of DCP were more likely to have an allergy than those with lower levels of exposure. This chemical is produced when common pesticides used for growing produce starts to break down; it is also a byproduct of treating water supplies with chlorine.
Most of the research points to pesticides used directly on produce as being the main source of DCP’s, but municipal water treatment facilities using chlorine for disinfection can also be a contributing factor. Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water supplies and is estimated to be used in 90% of the cities in the United States. Unlike chlorine, dichlorophenols (DCP’s) are not added to the water during treatment, but are instead a byproduct of the chlorine used during the disinfection stage. Furthermore, since DCP is not generally included in the list of pesticides tested by water treatment systems, we can only make an educated guess as to how to reduce these rising levels found in drinking water. If you would like to know more about this topic see our food allergies, water, and filters topic page for more details.
Since there is no specific DCP testing or data from water filtration manufacturers, we have asked a Level 6 Certified Water Quality Association member for advice about water filtering options for DCP. As with any water filtration system, the concentration of DCP and the contact time with filter media are both key in determining the actual reduction rates. Dichlorophenol is made up with two chlorine molecules and one phenol molecule, also known as carbolic acid, which is an organic compound. This compound lends itself to being captured by a carbon water filter through absorption almost instantly on contact. If you are not concerned with other chemicals added to your water during the treatment process, the simplest method of DCP reduction would be to use an undersink carbon POU (point of use) filtration system. If you are looking for a more comprehensive water filtration method that would reduce bacteria, viruses, lead, and other chemicals/compounds, then an Ultrafiltration water filter system such as the NEO Pure TL3 would be a great choice. Lastly, if you are looking for a system that reduces a wide array of contaminants such as fluoride, pesticides, benzene, mercury, arsenic, pesticides and more, the Reverse Osmosis System would be your best option.
In conclusion, researchers have noted there is both an increase in both environmental pollution and the number of people who suffer from food allergies. It might just be a consequence, but the most current study suggests that these two phenomena are possible linked. If you are concerned about the link between DCP and food allergies as it undergoes further research, you can best protect yourself and your family by buying produce that does not use common pesticides such as organically grown foods, and you can install a water filtration system to reduce your exposure.