By Henry Ehrlich
When allergy-related companies crop up in the business pages it’s usually for reasons that have nothing to do with medicine. For example, Mylan, which makes the life-saving epinephrine injector EpiPen™, made headlines not long ago for a deal to acquire a large stake in Abbott Laboratories with the express purpose of transferring its ownership overseas to the Netherlands to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes, a bit of accounting sleight of hand known as an inversion.
Today, however, we learned that nickel—the metal not the coin—used in manufacturing high-tech consumer devices is causing an epidemic of contact dermatitis. The centers for disease control estimates that 10-20% of Americans are allergic to nickel. “In February,” according to the New York Times, “Fitbit, the maker of a popular brand of devices that measure physical activity, had to recall more than a million of its wristbands after receiving complaints about adverse skin reactions.” Other items that have begun to cause these reactions include mobile phones and even children’s wristwatches sold by Disney.
We have been following the nickel issue at Asthma Allergies Children world headquarters for a long time. In our book published four years ago we wrote:
Nickel—a common element in gold earrings, rings, and, of course, coins—produces nickel dermatitis. In fact, as reported in the Science section of the New York Times in September 2002, Swiss scientists were predicting a large increase in contact dermatitis because of the design of the new Euro-denominated coins in European monetary union countries as the coins begin to wear down from regular use. The Swiss do not use the Euro but as experts in both pharmaceuticals and money, they keep on top of both subjects.
In Europe new regulations are in force, but not in the U.S.