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Look for jewelry and clothing labeled 'nickel-free'
13
May '08
For the estimated 82 percent of women with pierced ears, earrings are an important fashion accessory that many women wear, and change, daily.

However, a new study suggests that women may be getting more than they bargained for when purchasing inexpensive earrings. Nickel exposure from these earrings is a common cause of dermatitis on the earlobes and repeated exposure can make treatment difficult.

In the report entitled, "Nickel release from earrings purchased in the United States: The San Francisco earring study," published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologist Howard I. Maibach, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, presented evidence that nickel exposure from inexpensive earrings purchased from various stores and vendors is frequent in the United States and does not correlate with the price of the earrings within the "inexpensive" price range.

"Sensitization to nickel is quite common in the United States, with studies estimating that 5.8 percent of American adults tested positive to nickel allergy through a routine skin test," said Dr. Maibach.

"In the early 1990s, the European Union Nickel Directive was passed in an effort to decrease the prevalence of nickel sensitization in consumer and occupational products in Europe, with results indicating the directive is working.

However, no such regulations exist in the United States to limit nickel exposure leaving millions of people at risk for dermatitis from common goods, such as earrings."

For the study, Dr. Maibach and his collaborator, Jacob Pontoppidan Thyssen, MD, purchased inexpensive earrings from 34 different stores and artists in San Francisco in October 2007.

Inexpensive earrings were classified as those under $50; in contrast, expensive earrings were classified as those made of gold or platinum available from fine jewelry stores.

A total of 277 earrings were purchased from four different categories of vendors a downtown market with licensed local artists producing custom-made jewelry; jewelry stores in China Town targeting mainly tourists; national and international clothing and accessory chain stores targeting mainly girls and women under age 40; and similar stores targeting mainly women over age 40.


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