Dichlorophenol-containing pesticides and allergies: results from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Dec;109(6):420-5. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2012.09.005. Epub 2012 Oct 1.


Background: Epidemiologic studies support the hypothesis that reduced microbial exposure in westernized societies promotes atopy. Dichlorophenols are widely used as pesticides and for chlorination of water. They have a strong bactericidal effect that could affect microflora in the environment. However, it is unknown whether their use is associated with a higher prevalence of allergies.

Objective: To test the association between exposure to environmental pesticides represented by dichlorophenols and allergic sensitization measured by allergen-specific serum IgE levels in a US nationally representative sample of 2,211 persons 6 years and older in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006.

Methods: Exposure to dichlorophenols was defined as high if their levels in urine were present at the 75th percentile and above. Association of the high exposure to dichlorophenols with sensitization to food and environmental allergens was assessed in logistic regression models after adjustment for sample weights and potential confounders.

Results: Sensitizations to 1 or more food allergens were more common in those with exposure to 2 dichlorophenol metabolites. After multivariable adjustment, urine dichlorophenol levels at the 75th percentile and above were associated with the presence of sensitization to foods (odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-2.5; P = .003). No significant association was found between dichlorophenol exposure and sensitization to aeroallergens alone.

Conclusion: High urine levels of dichlorophenols are associated with the presence of sensitization to foods in a US population. Excessive use of dichlorophenols may contribute to the increasing incidence of food allergies in westernized societies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Food / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / blood
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods
  • Pesticides / immunology*
  • Pesticides / poisoning*
  • Phenols / immunology*
  • Phenols / poisoning*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Allergens
  • Pesticides
  • Phenols
  • Immunoglobulin E