Precious Metals & Bench:News
The use of nickel in pierced earrings can sensitize wearers
Scientists in Finland have discovered that body piercing (including ear
piercing) is probably the cause of a steep rise in allergies to nickel in
the Western world, says the January issue of New Scientist, a European magazine.
Nickel is used in some gold alloys but is more of a problem in costume
and bridge jewelry. However, exposure even to the small amount of nickel
in some fine jewelry can cause lifelong sensitivity. This suggests you should
help customers avoid jewelry and findings with nickel.
The study was conducted by Antti Pönkä and Asta Ekman of the
Helsinki City Centre for the Environment. They tested 66 ear studs and earring
backs imported from Germany, Sweden, Britain and the U.S. They all contained
amounts of nickel well below European Union limits.
In the first test ; which most government agencies use the
researchers swabbed an earring with a solution containing ammonia and dimethylglyocime,
which should produce red if the metal contains nickel. None of the earrings
tested positive. When they performed a variation of this test, in which
the earrings were exposed to artificial sweat for up to a week, nine pieces
tested positive. And when they used a different method, atomic absorption
spectrometry, 25 were found to exceed EU limits. Pönkä says the
swab test has been giving misleading results.
A directive outlining allowable levels of nickel in the EU was written
in 1994 but won't go into effect in all member states until agreed-upon
tests are published officially, possibly this year, says David Jarvis at
the Sheffield Assay Office, which carries out Britain's emissions testing
Adhering to limits won't be easy. "There's such a wide range of
jewelry it's difficult for importers to ensure they meet those requirements,"
says Stephen Carter of LGC, an independent lab in south London. "The
best way to solve it is not to use nickel."
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.