Two of the eight euro coins that will come into circulation in January contain so much nickel that people allergic to the metal could develop eczema. Just five minutes of contact with one-euro (88 cents) and two-euro coins containing Cupro-nickel, an alloy containing copper and nickel, could trigger symptoms that including skin inflammation and itching, according to a study by Swedish dermatologist Carola Liden of the Karolinska Institute and Stephen Carter of Britain?s Laboratory of the Government Chemist.

In the study, two-euro coins were soaked for a week in a solution resembling human sweat to imitate the effects of people handling coins. The amount of nickel released from the euro coins was up to 30 times above the level regarded by scientists as the threshold for reactivity to a single exposure. ?Contamination of hands with nickel was shown to occur by handling cupro-nickel coins for five minutes,? the study says.

Fifteen percent of all women and two to five percent of men in the industrialized world have an allergy to nickel. The study points out that while ?ordinary consumers handle coins infrequently for short periods of time, many shop assistants and cashiers in shops, banks and post offices handle coins during large parts of their workday.? Between 30 and 40 percent of nickel-sensitive people tend to develop hand eczema, an inflammation of the skin which can lead to sick leave or make it necessary to change jobs.

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