To the Editor.—
In a study by Baer et al1 mercury allergy was found in 22% of a large number of patients tested with a series of routine patch tests, as reported in the July Archives. Baer et al point out that this percentage is far higher than the incidence of clinical mercury allergy among eczematous patients. They attribute the lack of correlation between patch tests with mercury and mercury allergy to "low degrees of sensitization in many individuals."While such an explanation is possible, it is much more likely that the numerous positive tests represent weak, false-positive irritant reactions. The authors consider this possibility, and rather surprisingly dismiss it, stating the following:We consider it unlikely that a significant proportion of these reactions were due to primary irritancy of the test material since the tests were carried out with 0.05% mercury bichloride solution rather than with the 0.1%
Epstein E. Mercury Allergy and Patch Testing. Arch Dermatol. 1974;109(1):98. doi:10.1001/archderm.1974.01630010070026
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