Healthy living

New 5p and 10p coins could cause dermatitis

New 5p and 10p coins could cause dermatitis Experts call for risk assessment by Royal Mint

New 5p and 10p coins could cause dermatitis in people who are allergic to nickel, experts have warned.

The old 'silver' coins are made from cupronickel, an alloy made of 75 per cent copper and 25 per cent nickel. But these are being replaced with new, slightly thicker coins made from steel with a nickel coating.

The change to the new coins made from cheaper metals is expected to save the Royal Mint up to £8 million a year.

However, experts said that the new coins could trigger a reaction in people who are allergic to nickel, the most common contact allergy in the UK.

In a letter in today's British Medical Journal, dermatologists from St John's Institute of Dermatology, London, and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, said that there has been no assessment of the health risks posed by the new coins to people who have nickel contact allergy.

They said that Sweden's Central Bank "recently reviewed its coinage and concluded that nickel poses unacceptable risks to health" and will "not be using nickel containing alloys in their coinage."

"The prevalence and implications of contact allergy to nickel in Sweden are no different from those in the UK," the authors wrote.

They called for Sir John Beddington, chief scientific advisor to the Government, to give his view on the issue.

They concluded: "Although the Treasury might not be expected to have the expertise to undertake a risk assessment of the potential impacts to health of the nickel plated coins, discussions showed that the Royal Mint seems to be poorly informed.

"It should be for the public record that a competent risk assessment has formally considered the concerns."

A spokesman for the Royal Mint said it had "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."

This article was published on Fri 20 April 2012

Image © Sarah Allison -

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