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Occupational contact dermatitis to nickel: experience of the British dermatologists (EPIDERM) and occupational physicians (OPRA) surveillance schemes
  1. K W Shum1,
  2. J D Meyer2,
  3. Y Chen2,
  4. N Cherry2,
  5. D J Gawkrodger1
  1. 1Department of Dermatology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK
  2. 2Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester, Humanities Building, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D J Gawkrodger
 EPIDERM, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester, Humanities Building, Manchester M13 9PL, UK;


Aims: To examine, from occupational surveillance reporting data, whether scheme reporters considered nickel exposure to play a role in occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) in the UK.

Methods: Data on occupational skin disease in the UK are collected by two occupational disease surveillance schemes, EPIDERM and OPRA. Cases of OCD believed to have relevant nickel exposure reported to EPIDERM or OPRA from February 1993 to January 1999 were studied.

Results: An estimate of 1190 cases of occupational contact dermatitis thought to have relevant nickel exposure (12% of total estimated OCD) was derived from reports by dermatologists, an average of 198 per year. The highest incidence rates were seen in hairdressers (23.9/100 000 workers/year), bar staff (4.7), chefs and cooks (4.4), retail cash and checkout operators (2.8), and catering assistants (2.5). From May 1994 to January 1999, 158 cases of nickel associated dermatitis (1.9% of total OCD cases) were estimated; the most frequently reported occupations were electronic assemblers, nurses, sales assistants, and general assemblers. From July 1997 to January 1999, 547 positive patch tests to nickel were reported; in 195 cases (36%), nickel was felt to be a relevant occupational allergen (for example, coin handling). In hairdressers, nurses, cooks, and beauticians, nickel was usually considered, if relevant at all, to be only one of several causes of dermatitis.

Conclusions: Up to 12% of total estimated cases of OCD were thought to be due in part to nickel. Results suggest that nickel hypersensitivity is one of several contributors to OCD in subjects with multiple occupational exposures. Coin handling may be a source of OCD to nickel.

  • nickel
  • occupational contact dermatitis
  • surveillance schemes

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