In the UK, new coins with higher amounts of the metal nickel have been released in the beginning of 2013 and this creates concerns that those prone to eczema may have an allergic skin reaction. Although there are specific amounts regulated for the amount of nickel contained for certain categories of items that touch the skin such as jewelry (necklaces and earrings) and watch bands, this isn’t the case for coins.
Those that conduct studies and research at St John’s Institute of Dermatology at St Thomas’ Hospital, London as well as the Karolinska Institute are quoted for their concerns over the increased risk in skin allergic responses from the coins. In the past, the composition of the coins had been about 70 percent of copper and 25 percent made of nickel. The new coins released are made from steel and have a thick nickel coating.
The Journal of Contact Dermatitis did a small study of six individuals prone to skin reactions that handled the coins and concluded that there was an increased risk for skin reactions: Our study clearly shows that the nickel-plated steel coins recently introduced in the United Kingdom pose an increased allergy and eczema risk to the general public and cashiers as compared with the cupro-nickel coins that are being replaced.
The Royal Mint had previously conducted their own tests and did not find any increased risk of a skin rash with the new coins. However, their tests involved the individuals handling coins submerged in artificial sweat. The test created by the researchers published in the Contact Dermatitis journal tested the release of nickel when coins were being touched and handled for an hour. Keep in mind that a test group of 6 people may be too small to draw conclusions.
Keep an eye on the metal that touches your skin generally. Whether it’s your eye glasses, your belt buckle, jewelry or the cell phone against your ear. Skin reactions can occur in any of these situations and many people are not aware of potential nickel or metal allergies that can result. Also, a rash can occur for people due to friction and not related to metal.This happens in friction rashes.
In the summer it is easy to get a heat rash when exercising or staying in nylon clothing after working out and retaining sweat. If there is a piece of metal near your skin you may be having a heat rash and not necessarily be reacting to the nickel or metal. You can get a friction rash or sweat rash response in the summer that is independent of a metal reaction you may have to jewelery you wear. One can confuse a nickel allergy rash to a heat rash when you work out and wear metal on at the same time.
For people that are travelling this summer keep in mind that you may be exposed to contact dermatitis in a variety of contexts due to different fabrics, solvents and other materials you are not generally exposed to at home. If you have sensitive skin, stay conscious of this. Also be aware of the materials used that compose your mobile devices and their accessories.