The UK Now Mints Toxic Coins

In a report from the BBC, the UK has apparently decided to coat their 5p and 10p coins with nickel, a material that causes a skin reaction similar to that seen with poison ivy in some people.

In particular, people who have a skin allergy to nickel may develop an allergic contact dermatitis when they come in contact with the metal. This means that handing the new coins could lead to a skin rash consisting of redness, swelling and itching for those unfortunate enough to have this allergy.

Furthermore, according to two dermatology experts in the U.K. who wrote a report appearing online in BMJ on Thursday, these people may even be at increased risk for hand eczema, an increasingily common condition.

The coins' composition is being changed as a cost-cutting measure, but the authors say the cost to treat those affected by allergic reactions might be steep. They contacted Britain's HM Treasury asking for data on the amount of nickel that is released from the new coins onto the hands.

According to the Treasury's Swedish counterparts, Swedish Riksbank, nickel-plated coins "pose unacceptable risks to health." In addition, they state that they will "not be using nickel containing allows in their coinage."

The researchers state that even though the Royal Mint may have abided by all the rules regarding introduction of new coinage, there is insufficient evidence as to whether individuals with dermatitis (hand eczema) or nickle contact allergies will not suffer.

Only time will tell what effect these new coins will have, as no research is planned. The Royal Mint says a limited quantity of the coins are already in circulation with the remainder to be released soon.