Pure gold can produce allergy symptoms in some people, according to a researcher in Germany whose findings fly in the face of conventional dermatological wisdom that says// pure gold is a non-allergic substance.
For more than two decades, dermatologists have known that a small proportion of people display allergic skin responses to gold jewellery or dental fillings. But it has always been assumed that those allergies were caused by nickel or chrome in gold alloys.
Not so, says Thomas Fuchs of Goettingen University Hospital in Germany. He and Johannes Geier, also of Goettingen, conducted surveys of 30 dermatological clinics and hospitals throughout Germany and came to the conclusion that some people are indeed allergic to pure, unalloyed gold.
"These are indeed isolated cases," Fuchs says. "But they are enough to prove conclusively that there is such a thing as an allergy to gold."
The degree of allergy varies. Some people develop dermatitis, also called eczema, from even brief contact with gold items, while others break out only after many years of skin contact with gold.
Some people develop intermittent or persistent eczema on their hands and feet. It is usually a blistering type of eczema, known as pompholyx.
"Until now, the medical community has assumed that this allergic response is due entirely to gold alloys including nickel, but often there is no obvious reason for it," Fuchs says.
"It has even been suggested that in some, dyshidrotic hand dermatitis is due to nickel in the diet. Unfortunately, it is not possible to avoid ingesting nickel as it is present in most foodstuffs," he adds.
"No one ever thought to test pure gold itself because it has always been assumed that gold is the purest of all metals and that it cannot possibly produce an allergic response," Fuchs says.
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