Clean water is something many of us take for granted, but a troubling new study suggests that pesticides in tap water may be responsible for a recent increase in food allergies.

Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology studied existing government data and discovered that people with higher levels of dichlorophenols in their urine were much more likely to suffer from food allergies.

Dichlorophenols are a type of chlorine used in tap water, and scientists think they may be killing beneficial bacteria in the human digestive system, which in turn leads to food allergies. The number of children and teens with food allergies increased by 18 percent between 1997 and 2007.

"Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States," said Elina Jerschow, the study's lead author. "The results of our study suggest these two trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies."

But those who drink bottled water might not be safe either. According to Jerschow, the harmful chemicals could easily be ingested by eating pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables. Still, she cautioned, further research is needed before Americans make drastic changes to their diets.

[ABC News]