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Nickel in euro coins will make you sick

December 30th, 2001

Watch out, the euro can make you sick
It has been accused of crushing national identity, pushing up prices and being the best friend of fraudsters and drug barons.  But now the euro – Europe’s new single currency – faces its toughest criticism: it can make you ill.  After years of anticipation, the coins and notes will be launched in 12 countries on Tuesday.  But millions of people who eagerly grab their new coins could see their hands turn into a scaly, diseased mass after minutes.  …  Medical researchers have conducted tests showing the coins can make far more people sick than the currencies they replace.
(The Observer, 30 December 2001, page 1)

Is the euro a rash move?
Never mind the supposed constitutional problems involved in joining the euro – the coins themselves could turn out to be bad for your health.  …  Eurosceptics would have you believe that the euro is a potentially fatal step towards a European superstate but according to new scientific research the single currency could be a hazard for human health too.
(Guardian Unlimited, 14 December 2001)

Reports of allergies caused by the nickel used in the one and two euro coins made for a classic scare story, particularly in the final days before the introduction of the new currency.  What the papers failed to realise is that the use of nickel in coins is not a recent development.  Apart from the one and two pence pieces, all UK coins currently in circulation contain nickel.  Nickel is used in the US five-cent piece and was widely used in national coins across the EU before the euro was introduced.  In fact, all 12 euro-zone members had coins that contained the same level of nickel as the one and two euro coins.
Ministers from each of the 15 EU Member States agreed on the metal composition of euro coins in 1998.  The European Commission raised the issue of potential allergies from nickel at the time and two scientific studies were carried out.  It was decided to use nickel only in the one and two euro coins, which demand a very high level of security.  As a result, 92% of euro coins in circulation are nickel-free, as opposed to 25% of national coins.  In addition, the nickel used in one and two euro coins is essentially contained inside the alloy and not on the surface, thus limiting skin contact.

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