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Cheaper Earrings More Likely to Contain Nickel
Date:5/17/2008

But report could not establish safe-limit price as guide for avoiding exposure

SATURDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Those inexpensive earrings you bought from a hip young street artist may be good for your wallet but bad for your ears and skin.

A new report finds that many pairs of earrings sold for less than $50 by local San Francisco stores and artists contain nickel, which can cause dermatitis on the earlobes and repeated exposure can make treatment difficult.

The report, published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found no particular price point or country of origin that assured earrings did or did not contain nickel.

"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," author Howard I. Maibach, a professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a prepared statement. "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."

Maibach and a colleague bought 277 earrings from 34 different stores and artists in San Francisco in October 2007. Of these, 85 (or 30.7 percent) tested positive for nickel. Earrings purchased at a downtown market with licensed local artists producing custom-made jewelry had the highest proportion of positive tests at 69 percent, while nearly 43 percent of earrings bought from tourist-type stores in China Town also positive for nickel.

When testing earrings bought at accessory and clothing stores targeting women, 24.1 percent of the ea
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