Is your cellphone making you itch?

Some 30 percent of Brits are suffering from "mobile phone dermatitis." Blame nickel.

By Cyrus Farivar
Published October 16, 2008 5:39PM (EDT)

According to a new study from the British Association of Dermatologists, some people can develop "mobile phone dermatitis" -- essentially an allergy to the presence of nickel in some cellphones. This is at least the third such study in the last two years to reach this same conclusion.

Basically, if you use your phone for "long periods of time" (BAD doesn't define exactly what "long" means), you can get a nasty-looking rash and possibly blistering on your face. The group also claims that this allergy is "the most common contact allergy in the UK" and that it's "thought to affect 30 of the population, with a rising incidence."

That seems like a rather high rate of incidence, although at press time, the U.K. office of BAD was closed, so it was impossible to confirm this figure.

"In mobile phone dermatitis, the rash would typically occur on the cheek or ear, depending on where the metal part of the phone comes into contact with the skin," said Dr. Graham Lowe of BAD in a written statement. "In theory it could even occur on the fingers if you spend a lot of time texting on metal menu buttons."

This latest study appears to confirm the results of a similar study done last year by a team at Brown University, which found that a number of popular phones, including the BlackBerry 8700c (on the rear speakerphone), the Motorola Razr, the Motorola SLVR, the Motorola Q, the Motorola L2 (all on the decorative logo) and on a few Sony Ericssons and Samsung models as well. The Brown team tested the Palm Treo 650 and five different Nokia models and didn't find any trace of nickel.

"Those with more fashionable designs often have metallic accents and are more likely to contain free nickel in their casings," states the Brown report, which was authored by Dr. Lionel Bercovitch, one of the lead authors, who was unavailable at press time for comment.

Another team at the Medical University of Vienna reached a similar conclusion in late 2006.

Maybe that's yet another reason to bust out that Bluetooth headset, hrm?

[via Reuters]

Cyrus Farivar

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