Your Cell Phone Could Give You Allergies
Blackberry or iPhone? Turns out your health may at stake when you make the choice.
--by Jenara Nerenberg
Struggling to make the choice between iPhone
and Blackberry? Your health may play an unlikely role in your decision. New research released today at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
shows that one third of Blackberrys contain nickel and cobalt, which
are common allergy triggers that can lead to patches of red, itchy skin.
iPhones were not found to contain either ingredient in the study.
Droids don't have them either, but your average flip phone does—a whopping 91 percent contain nickel and 52 percent contain cobalt, according to the study.
"Both metals can cause an allergic reaction, including dry, itchy patches along the cheek bones, jaw line, and ears," said allergist Tania Mucci, M.D., lead study author and an ACAAI member. The metals are often found in jewelry and coins as well, and nickel in particular is a common allergen, affecting three percent of men and 17 percent of women.
The Expert Take
with nickel and cobalt allergies should consider using iPhones or
Droids to reduce the chance of having an allergic reaction," says
allergist Luz Fonacier, M.D., study author and an ACAAI fellow.
"Blackberry users with known allergies should avoid prolonged
conversations, text messaging, and handling their phones if they begin
The study authors also note that those who do show allergy symptoms should consider getting a plastic phone case or using wireless ear pieces.
If you have
swelling, redness, eczema, itching, blistering, scarring, or skin
lesions near your cheek bones, ears, or jaw line, you may be a victim of
this unfortunate cell phone allergy. Consider switching your phone or
covering it up—or using a hands-free device.
Many people may not even know they have the allergy, or perhaps they notice symptoms but don't know the cause. This new research should help clear up some confusion—and your skin!
Source and Method
72 cell phones
were tested for nickel and cobalt, of which 25 were iPhones, 17 were
Blackberrys, 9 were Motorola Droids, and 21 were flip phones. All
participants were over the age of 18 and were asked about their cell
phone usage, including talking and texting, and five spots on the phones
were tested for these metals.
Neither metal was found in the iPhones and Droids, but 29.4 percent of Blackberrys tested positive for nickel, 90.5 percent of flip phones tested positive as well, and 52.4 percent tested positive for cobalt. The sample size of participants and phones was notably small.
Previous studies have noted a rise in cell-phone-induced allergic reactions. A 2009 study in Contact Dermatitis notes a rise in adolescents' allergic reactions to cell phones containing nickel, in particular. A 2006 study in the same publication
notes that nickel and cobalt are actually in a range of products, such
as earrings, jewelry, and other metal products, which may contribute to
the higher allergy rates in women.
And a 2010 case-specific study of a 39-year-old man indicates that nickel found in cell phones can indeed produce a sustained, treatment-resistant allergic response—and that reports of it are likely to increase, especially as awareness increases.