Coin change 'could cause more skin problems'

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

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.

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Media captionProfessor 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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