21 April 2012

The burning weight of coins

The Royal Mint (UK) is currently planning to change the composition of '5p' and '10p' coins from the silver-based alloy cupronickel, to a new alloy that is based on steel and nickel. Changing the materials of the coins is expected to save the save the Mint an estimated £8 million (nearly US$13 million) and on a side-note, will make the coins slightly thicker and heavier.

The new 10p coins, which have dimensions more like a £1 coin than the previous styles of 10p.

However despite being good from an economic perspective, the new coins (made from steel galvanised with nickel) may cause dermatitis in members of our population with nickel allergies, which unfortunately is the most common contact allergy in the UK. Worryingly, dermatologists from St. John's Institute of Dermatology, London have said that there has been no assessment to the health risks that these new coins pose and the Central Bank of Sweden has decided that it will not be manufacturing the new coins, after a lengthy debate; with a spokesperson saying that "nickel poses unacceptable risks to health".

However, there may not be cause for alarm since the Treasury claims to have carried out a competent risk assessment over the possible health issues and a spokesman for the Royal Mint has said that "the new nickel-plated 5p and 10p coins have no additional potential to cause adverse effects on people with allergic contact dermatitis and hand dermatitis".

Thus, despite the concerns about the potential health risks that the new coins could cause, it is still unclear whether or not they will have adverse effects on some peoples' health and more research into the matter should be carried out; even if the Treasury and Royal Mint already believe the new coins to be safe and the research is just carried out to put public concerns at ease.

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