I Told Em!

Long-term subscribers will know I have an occasional jokey column called “I Told ‘Em!” It means I was saying it decades before others were “discovering” it.

Back in the 1980s (and before) it was clear to a few pioneers like me that what we called “chemical allergy” (a bad term) was capable of sensitizing individuals to other allergens. I noticed it especially with foods; a person who worked in a strongly polluted environment would start to react badly to foods.

It was scoffed at. I was called a fraud on TV (I got my own back mind you). It was called “non-scientific”. But doesn’t all science begin with interesting observations? Somebody sees something that needs explaining and it starts an investigation to see what lies behind the observation.

The truth is that chemicals do sensitize people, exactly as I said over 30 years ago.

Now scientists have figured it out!

Exposure to a class of chemicals known as chlorophenols appears to be associated with an increased rate of allergic sensitization to food and aeroallergens, according to 2 studies presented here at the AAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) 2012 Annual Meeting. Some chlorophenols are used as pesticides and others are used in antiseptics.

It’s an irony: the biggest critics of my medical paradigm was the AAAI!

In the first of these studies, urinary levels of dichlorophenols were measured, and allergies to 11 environmental aeroallergens and 4 foods (peanut, egg, milk, and shrimp) were assessed with serum IgE levels in 2211 subjects 6 to 18 years of age. Allergy was defined as a serum IgE level of 0.3 kU/L or greater.

Food allergy was identified in 411 subjects and environmental allergy in 1016 subjects, according to Natalia Vernon, MD, from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, who presented the data.

It is possible that chlorophenols alter the gut flora, changing tolerance and allergic sensitization, said Dr. Vernon. Alternatively, the chemicals might directly affect the immune system.

The analysis also showed that vitamin D levels modified this association, with low levels being associated with higher rates of allergy, but she explained that her group has not yet worked out the odds ratios for this association.

Well, there are millions of us now trying to tell these idiots that vitamin D helps modulate the immune system and reduced allergic reactions!

The second study looked at the urinary levels of 3 environmental phenols, including bisphenol A. Again, it showed a strong association between chemical exposure and developing allergic reactions.

An ingredient of the common hand sanitizers that have sprung up everywhere in stores, restaurants, clubs etc. is a bad sensitizer (triclosan).

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing the safety evidence of triclosan in light of questions raised by recent animal studies, and expects to announce its findings in the spring.

According to the FDA, there is currently no evidence “that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water.”

Good science says that this is almost certainly a “Hygiene hypothesis” mechanism. Triclosan kills off and distorts the bowel flora (our human microbiome). Inflammation and allergies result from that.

I covered this very important aspect of health in my new book “Fire In The Belly”.

[American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) 2012 Annual Meeting: Abstracts 770 and 628. Presented March 5, 2012]