Do nickel releasing coins threaten public health?

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September 11, 2012 – Recently Scandinavian and British specialists have suggested in a paper that contrary to the public opinion coins containing and releasing large quantities of nickel may actually cause nickel allergies and hand eczemas with consumers suffering of nickel allergy or people who professionally handle coins regularly.

Nickel allergy affects 10-30% of women and 1-3% of men as the authors affirm, and hand eczemas mean not only poor quality of life but also reduced ability to work and hence large economical costs. Even intermittent contact with keys or coins seem to cause serious problems. Nickel is very popular in the coin production due to its excellent material qualities. Particularly interesting is that tests have shown that the quantity of released nickel does not necessarily correspond to the quantity of nickel in the coin because alloys have different properties than the single components. Therefore the euro coins with combinations of copper-nickel and nickel-brass alloys release nickel in higher quantities under a combination of friction and corrosion than even pure nickel coins.
Concluding the authors suggest to substitute coins releasing high nickel quantities with new coins with no or only a low nickel content.

Nickel allergy was also the topic of our first MintWorld Compendium ‘Coins and Good Health.’ You may download this issue for free to read many interesting articles on the subject.

An abstract of the recently published paper by Jacob P. Thyssen, David J. Gawkrodger, Ian R. White, Anneli Julander, Torkil Menné and Carola Lidén has been published online here.

The paper itself has appeared as: Thyssen JP, Gawkrodger DJ, White IR, Julander A, Menné T, Lidén C. Coin exposure may cause allergic nickel dermatitis: a review. Contact Dermatitis. 2012; Jul 5.