'Mobile phone dermatitis' linked to nickel deposits

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Friday, October 17, 2008

A selection of cellular phones.
Image: Kprateek88.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has released a report saying that an illness they named 'mobile phone dermatitis', in which individuals owning a cell phone have developed a rash on the side of their face, is likely linked to nickel deposits in the metal of some cellular phones. Nickel has been known to cause rashes on those who have a sensitivity to, or are allergic to the metal. Nickel is also mixed with other metals to make jewelry.

The Association says that the condition is likely to affect people who spend too much time talking on the phone. They found that those who spend too much time text messaging or talking for long periods on the phone, were most likely to develop a rash, sometimes severe, on their face and ears, or the tips of their fingers.

Tests in January, performed on 22 cellular phones by scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island located in the United States, had found that just under half, a total of 10, contained nickel while the rest had rubber buttons and a plastic case. Initially the rashes were unexplained, and researchers could not find a reason why so many individuals began to experience the symptoms. In most cases the rashes were untreatable.

"Cell phones intended for rugged use ... often have rubber coating and no surface nickel. Those with more fashionable designs often have metallic accents and are more likely to contain free nickel in their casings," said Lionel Bercovitch MD., one of the researchers, in a report in the journal for the Canadian Medical Association on January 1, 2008.

Researchers also state that although some people may not be allergic to nickel, "prolonged" and continuous exposure to it can cause severe reactions.

"Prolonged or repetitive contact with a nickel-containing phone is more likely to cause a skin reaction in those who are allergic," said BAD dermatologist Dr. Graham Lowe in a press release. In the United Kingdom alone, BAD says nearly 30% of the population suffers from rashes brought on by prolonged exposure to the metal.

The researchers also recommend individuals to buy swab test kits to test for traces of nickel.


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