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Cheap Earrings Increase Exposure to Nickel

Health risk is sufficient to warrant regulatory intervention

THURSDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to nickel through wearing cheap earrings is a common occurrence in the United States and results in nickel sensitization, researchers report in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This contrasts with decreasing prevalence of nickel sensitization in Europe as a result of the European Union Nickel Directive, the authors found.

Jacob Pontoppidan Thyssen, M.D., of Gentofte University Hospital in Gentofte, Denmark, and a colleague purchased 277 earrings from 34 different stores and artists in San Francisco in four sales categories: a downtown artists' market; tourist shops in Chinatown; national and international clothing and accessory chain stores targeting mainly girls and young women; and similar stores targeting mainly mature women. The earrings were tested for nickel using the dimethylglyoxime test.

There was no correlation between price and outcome of nickel testing, but earrings bought from local artists were the most likely to contain excessive levels of the metal, with 69 percent of these samples testing positive versus 42.9 percent of tourists shops, 24.1 percent of chain stores targeting young women and 1.7 percent of stores targeting mature women, the investigators found.

"Mandatory labeling of jewelry and clothing (e.g., 'nickel free' or 'hypoallergenic') could perhaps increase public awareness and possibly protect future consumers from nickel sensitization," the authors write. "Necessary authoritative steps may be warranted."

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