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Germany

Euro Coins could Curb the Itch to Spend

According to a recent study by a Swedish dermatologist and British laboratory scientist, two of the eight euro coins, due to come into circulation in January 2002, can cause eczema.

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The one two euro coins could prevent shop-aholics from going overboard

The coins release so much nickel that people allergic to the metal could develop hand eczema from merely touching them.

Eczema, or dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a group of skin conditions which can affect people of all age groups. The severity of the disease can vary. In mild forms the skin is dry, hot and itchy. In more severe forms the skin can become broken, raw and bleeding. Eczema is not contagious but nonetheless, not pleasant. The one-euro (88 US cents) and two-euro coins contain a nickel alloy that could cause skin inflammation and itching.

Tests and statistics

Fifteen percent of all women and two to five percent of men are predisposed to this nickel allergy. Between 30 and 40 percent of nickel-sensitive people tended to develop hand eczema, an inflammation of the skin which could lead to them applying for sick leave or a change of jobs.

The study was written by dermatologist Carola Liden at Sweden's Karolinska Institute and Stephen Carter of Britain's Laboratory of the Government Chemist in Middlesex. "Whilst 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," it states.

For a week, the two euro coins in question were bathed in a solution resembling human sweat to imitate the effects of people handling coins. The results were astounding. The amount of nickel released from the euro coins was up to 30 times above a level regarded by scientists as the concentration threshold for reactivity to a single exposure. "Contamination of hands with nickel was shown to occur by handling cupro-nickel coins for five minutes," it said.

Cupro-nickel is an alloy that consist primarily of copper and nickel the the new coins are exempt from the EU's nickel directive. This limits the amount of nickel in products such as jewellery or watches that come into direct contact with the skin. The one and two euro coins have a potential nickel release up to 100 times greater than the EU directive's upper limit, the study found. This will undoubtedly put an itchy dampener on the launch of the coins.

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