Originally published on July 14, 2014

Breaking news today implicates nickel found in the metal case of an iPad as the cause of a young boy’s allergic reaction.  This child had apparently been using an uncovered iPad daily; a positive nickel test result linked the device to the youngster’s uncomfortable rash.

As more medical journals report the relationship between electronic devices and nickel allergy rashes, consumers are questioning what can be done to prevent those reactions.  A review of discussion boards reveals that cell phones, tablets, and laptops* are getting the blame for increasing nickel allergy symptoms including itchy rashes, cracked, leathery or swollen skin, and blisters.

Nickel avoidance is the only way to resolve the symptoms of nickel allergy.  The first step is always to locate the source.  Test for nickel with Nickel Alert™ which is a dmg spot test, the industry standard for nickel detection. Athena Allergy introduced Nickel Alert as the first commercially available, pre-mixed nickel test, formulated in the USA.

Nickel Alert is a safe, easy, and extremely accurate nickel test.  It is sensitive enough to detect the presence of free nickel at a level as low as 10 parts per million, a threshold below which only extremely sensitive individuals would react.  Nickel Alert is safe to use on any metal without harm to the item being tested.  Simply apply a few drops of the dimethyglyoxime liquid to a cotton swab.  Rub the metal firmly for a few seconds.  If a pink or red color develops on the swab, nickel has been detected.

The second step to nickel avoidance is to place a barrier between the metal that contains nickel and the skin.  For many electronic devices, that could be as simple as a cell phone or tablet cover, which is probably recommended for that device anyway.

There is some equipment that would be difficult to protect either through a cover or through barrier protection products such as Nickel Guard™.  Nickel Guard is a protective lacquer that may be brushed onto metal and has been clinically proven to provide effective barrier protection even for sensitive skin, without the use of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. While Nickel Guard is an excellent way to protect the skin from nickel in smaller, non-movable items such as earrings and eyeglass frames, it is not recommended for movable parts.  If it is not feasible to protect the skin from the metal in electronic devices, replacing those items would be recommended to avoid the severe reactions that may result from continued use.  Whenever possible, contact the manufacturer to determine materials that are used or test the metal in the device prior to purchase to assure there is no nickel.

Earlier this year, Fitbit recalled one of its fitness monitors, the Force wristband, after customers complained about skin irritation. Recognizing that the nickel found in a metal part of the band could be the source of the health concerns, Fitbit voluntarily recalled the product.  Additionally, this company was quick to respond with offers of refunds or replacements to customers who had been afflicted.

Perhaps the incidences of nickel allergy are becoming more of an American problem. In a seemingly successful attempt to curtail burgeoning nickel allergy cases, The European Union enacted the Nickel Directive.   In effect for a number of years, this regulation limits the use of nickel in metals intended to come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin.  Nickel is often used as it is very durable, lustrous, and inexpensive.  It alloys well with other metals giving them these seemingly desirable properties.  Dermatologist reports indicate a reduction in numbers of nickel allergy cases in Europe since these regulations went into effect.

Nickel allergy is a very real concern with debilitating symptoms.  These symptoms will disappear over a period of several days once the contact with nickel has ceased.  However, discerning the presence of nickel then protecting the body from that nickel is not always an easy process.  It is validating for nickel allergy sufferers to finally be heard by the medical community and to know that some companies are responding by taking these health concerns seriously.

For anyone who has experienced the uncomfortable symptoms of nickel allergy, it is also helpful to know there are organizations that exist to supply products such as nickel free belts and nickel free jewelry, along with nickel test kits to alleviate their suffering.When possible, test all metals for nickel.  Avoid metals that contain nickel, either through barrier protection or by replacing those items with those that are guaranteed to be nickel free either through testing or through trustworthy sites such as Athena Allergy or NoNickel.com.  These companies batch test their products then offer them with a money back guarantee that they will never test positive for nickel.

*Manufacturers use materials for their products from myriad sources. Detecting nickel in one iPhone 5 (as we did in our office) does not mean all iPhone 5s will contain nickel.  Testing should be an individual process.  We plan to continue testing our electronics, but the first two products tested revealed a negative nickel test for an iPad 3 along with the positive nickel test of the iPhone 5.

Electronic Devices and Nickel Allergic Reactions

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