Two new coins that are being introduced into circulation in the UK may cause and aggravate skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
An alteration has been made to the coating of the five and 10 pence pieces and now skin experts are urging the Royal Mint to carry out a thorough investigation into the safety of the coins.
The new coins are made out of steel and are plated in nickel, whereas previous versions were made from cupronickel – a 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel mixture.
It is thought the changes have been introduced as a cost saving measure as the new 5p and 10p coins will be cheaper to manufacture.
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However, dermatologists have criticised the Royal Mint for not assessing the health impacts of the updated versions of the coins.
They say the cost of treating skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema will outweigh the savings that are made during the manufacturing process.
The Treasury has anticipated that the new coins will save £10 million every year, but they are slightly thicker than their predecessor so millions of pounds have already had to be spent altering parking meters and vending machines so they accept the new coins.
Two dermatologists from London’s St John's Institute of Dermatology and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield believe these costs will be increased if people suffer a reaction to the nickel coating.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Danielle Greenblatt and Ian White explained that health authorities in Sweden had linked nickel plated coins to public health risks.
As quoted in the Financial Times newspaper, the pair said: “The Swedish Riksbank recently reviewed its coinage and concluded that nickel-plated coins pose unacceptable risks to health.
“The prevalence and implications of contact allergy to nickel in Sweden are no different from those in the UK.”
They added: “The Royal Mint may have followed all the rules with regards to the introduction of new coinage, but there is still no proof that those with hand eczema – dermatitis – or nickel contact allergies will not suffer.”
Despite their concerns, the Royal Mint is adamant is has “adhered to all the relevant legislation and guidelines relating to the introduction of new coinage and can confirm that the new nickel-plated 5p and 10p coins have no additional potential to cause adverse effects on people with allergic contact dermatitis and hand dermatitis.”
The new coins will be introduced within the next few months.
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