Coin change 'could cause more skin problems'

Five pence pieces New versions of the 5p coin are coated in nickel

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Fears are being raised that 5p and 10p coins being introduced into circulation could cause skin problems.

The coins are made from steel but plated in nickel, replacing the current cupro-nickel version which contains 75% copper and 25% nickel.

Dermatologists told the British Medical Journal the move could cause problems for people who have nickel allergies, including some people with eczema.

But the Royal Mint said the change would not have an adverse impact.

The new coins, which come into circulation in the next few months, are being introduced because of the rising cost of copper.

The Treasury believes it could save £10m a year, although millions have been spent changing vending machines and parking meters as the new coins are slightly thicker, causing anger among councils and industry.

Up to 10% of the population, predominantly women, are thought to be affected by nickel allergy.

No health assessment

The latest controversy has been raised by dermatologists from St John's Institute of Dermatology in London and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.

The authors warned that there had been no health assessment of the new coinage.

Professor David Gawkrodger, University of Sheffield: "It is a theoretical concern"

In comparison in Sweden its central bank, the Swedish Riksbank, has recently concluded that nickel-plated coins "pose unacceptable risks to health", the BMJ reported.

In a letter to the BMJ, the dermatologists said there was the potential for more skin problems, which could have financial implications for the NHS.

They said: "Considerable evidence supports these concerns, which have not been assessed by the Treasury or Royal Mint."

They have called for Sir John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser, to look into the matter.

But a spokesman for the Royal Mint said both they and the government were "confident" the change would not lead to any more adverse effects among people with skin problems.

He also said while there had been no specific health assessment on the new coins, the move met with all the existing guidelines.


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  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    #65 Copper is also very hard (its used to coat lsoft ead bullets... hence the term 'full metal jacket') whereas some steels are quite soft depending on the carbon content. Baked bean cans are steel... hardly kitchen knife grade. I'd suspect the steel used in these coins will be dirt cheap and soft as a result. Stamping the coins while still hot & slightly soft would be another option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Some responsibility lies with those who suffer from the allergy surely ?The warnings are now public.If you know coins can cause a rash then don't handle them without gloves.
    We simply cannot make every food,product, object and situation free of risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I too have adverse skin reactions to many things. But is there a sensible material that can be used that does not create reactions like this for some? Is the use of the new metal perhaps the "least worst case". We seem to want to have a society that is completely risk-free for everyone, but that is just not possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Who still uses coins... it's 2012! Paper and plastic all the way :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I'm a little bit puzzled by this announcement, steel 2p and 5p coins have been in circulation for several years,If you don't believe me put a magnet on your small change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Could this be a cunning plan by the Royal Mint? If these coins are swiftly withdrawn, they will become valuable to collectors - potentially making a mint for the Mint!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    What a cock-up. I know people with Nickel allergy and it will affect them if they handle the coinage enough.

    Also why could the Mint not develop the new coins with the same dimensions/weight as the current ones ?? They are not acting in the public interest and should be fired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    My bank account certainly appears to give the appearance of being allergic to money. :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    £10m pound saving based upon what? material costs?

    Steel being harder and less malleable than copper, will need stamps made from harder metals and will need changing more frequently.

    It is possible that the machines may need changing or upgrading to generate a greater stamping force. Because more force is needed to stamp the steel, the energy costs will go up as well.

    Show us the calculations

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Another fiasco in the making that will end up with the new coins having to be scrapped and all the new coin machines replaced with the old ones - more wasteful government spending of taxpayers money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Pigs and Troughs come to mind when i think about senior bankers

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    58 - Nannying more like. Like I say just how long do you plan to hold the coins for? I am alergic to nickle and nickle coverings, so much so that after 10 mins of wearing nickle earings I had to take them out as my ears had swollen hard. But I do not plan to handle coins for more than a few seconds at a time. It's time and money wasting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    56. Mad Scientist

    Being made of steel, means that pick pockets will now use magnets.
    Do you SERIOUSLY fear pick pockets stealing 10p coins?

    #50 Its spelt 'carat'. 22 carrot gold would be a bumper meal for a rabbit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I remember a few years back a lot of people using this an an excuse not to adopt the Euro as apparently their coins had the same effect, but it turned out that British coins were actually more likely to cause skin problems as they were. To be honest though I'm just more concerned about the usability of these coins. I'm already frustrated because many pay and display machines won't accept £2 coins

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    While I'm sorry for all the nickel-allergy people who've been so airily waved away as of no importance, my biggest question is why the Royal Mint couldn't have made the coins the same thickness as the old ones, OR paid up themselves to have vending machines modified to recognise them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    49 Some people could be affected, that is the purpose of a risk assessment , so that appropriate actions can be taken. e.g. if the risk of adverse reactions is increased in number or severity then retailers can be advised so they can make suitable gloves available for till staff. Doctors can be advised etc. It is the lack of a proper assessment that is criminal, not change per se.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I work for a supermarket. These new 5p coins are causing the self scans to break down as they are slightly thicker than the other 5p coins. Because of this, customers aren't able to use them and the queues at the checkouts are long. Frustrating if you want have no time.

    Plus they are being rejected at all of the various vending machines, car park payment machines I have used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Being made of steel, means that pick pockets will now use magnets.

    33. Megan
    What??? Bureaucrats actually think beyond saving money?

    30. James411
    Try it, it is so erotic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    No.30 James411....I don't need to cover myself in coins, just a few seconds of touching nickel is enough to cause blisters. A nickel allergy reaction gets worse with each exposure. I am hypersensitive to it now. And that is what is most troubling for our kids and their future health, regarding these coins. They are toxic and should be withdrawn immediately.


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