Euro-allergy: How Far the Truth?

Euro-allergy: How Far the Truth?


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Since the launch of Euro there have been reports popping now and then about the allergic reactions to some of the Euro coins. Latest to add to the growing list is a German dermatologist who appended his research to mounting evidence that Europe’s new, one- and two-Euro coins cause allergic reactions. Addressing a medical conference in Prague, Dr Volker Grimm said he and his colleagues at the Technical University of Munich determined that a small space between the ring and centre “pill” of the two-part coins play a role in the skin reactions described by a Swiss doctor earlier in the journal Nature.


Dr Frank Nestle of the University of Zurich and a research team discovered that nickel in the coins can trigger outbreaks of contact dermatitis – red, itchy skin – in people allergic to the metal. He said the reaction occurs when human sweat comes in contact with the coins and creates an electrical current that releases nickel ions. Nickel is the most common cause of skin-contact allergic reactions, affecting up to 10 percent of people worldwide. Grimm’s team went a step beyond Nestle’s by describing how nickel can reach sweaty skin. They found that a gap up to 1 millimetre deep between the ring and pill allows sweat to sink into the coin and reach the nickel core, creating a battery-like electrical current, which releases nickel ions. The nickel, in turn, irritates the skin.


Grimm’s team tested the coins on nickel-sensitive patients. Using “patch tests”, patients’ skin was exposed to one- and two-euro coins, a petroleum jelly containing nickel, and the EU’s new 20-cent coins, which are made of nordic gold. Only skin exposed to the 20- cent coins did not break out. Grimm does not think nickel-allergic cashiers and others who handle the new coins for brief periods are at risk of dermatitis. But he said the risks are high for allergic people, such as a child, who accidentally swallow a coin or otherwise experience long-term contact.


As for the possible outcomes under other conditions – for example, when a nickel-allergic man works up a sweat while jogging and has the coins in his pocket – Grimm said, “we just don’t know”. Grimm said he had not told the European Central Bank, which directed the minting of 10 billion of the one- and two-Euro coins with 25 percent nickel, about his findings. However, he said: “The conclusion would be: Never use nickel for a new coin. But they already did, so what can we do?” Will we hear some reactions to this nickel controversy from the corridors of power in Brussels or the ECB in Frankfurt? Earlier the better to dispel any false alarms!(682)

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