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The World in Medicine
October 9, 2002

Allergic to Money?

JAMA. 2002;288(14):1708. doi:10.1001/jama.288.14.1708

As people with nickel allergy know, prolonged contact with this metal can cause the itchy rash characteristic of allergic contact dermatitis. Because this is a common allergy, the amount of nickel in coins, including the euro coins introduced last January, is regulated to prevent a problem in nickel-sensitive individuals.

Now, however, researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, have found that because of a design flaw, 1-euro and 2-euro coins can generate an electrical current that causes them to release amounts of nickel that vastly exceed the quantity allowed. When the investigators taped the coins to the skin of seven people with nickel-contact allergy, all seven developed rashes in 48 hours (Nature. 2002;419:132).

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