Buckles, Low-Waist Jeans Contribute to Kids' Allergies

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By Pat Rizzuto

July 31 — Clothing and retail companies can help reduce children's exposure to nickel and the skin allergies the metal can cause, according to a study to be published online in Pediatrics Aug. 3.

Nickel-containing belt buckles combined with low-waist jeans, which can increase the amount of stomach skin touching the nickel, may contribute to the increased rate of dermatitis being diagnosed in children, wrote a dermatology team led by Sharon Jacob with California's Loma Linda University.

“As harmless as a belt buckle may appear to be it can be a significant sensitizer in the pediatric population at risk for nickel allergic contact dermatitis,” the dermatologists wrote in “Belt Buckles—Increasing Awareness of Nickel Exposure in Children: A Case Report.”

“A medical history of nickel allergy increases the risk for future disabling hand dermatitis, which has a staggering annual societal per-patient cost of $9,575 dollars,” the dermatology team said.

Nickel is a recognized contributor to dermatitis, and some clothing companies, retail stores and governments already are addressing it, the authors said.

For example, they said:

• Walmart plans to sell a clothing line with limited nickel for children;

• companies such as Levi Strauss & Co. are restricting nickel in jean snaps; and

• the European Union's REACH regulation (1907/2006/EC), which superseded the EU’s Nickel Directive, says the rate of nickel that can be released from objects such as earrings, anklets, rings, rivets, wrist watches and zippers must not exceed 0.5 micrograms per square centimeter per week.

Further Collaboration Sought 

Further collaboration among medical professionals, manufacturers and legislators can encourage such developments, the team said. It based that conclusion on the evaluation by physicians of 12 patients aged 9 years to 15 years.

The case study showed that switching to a different metal for the belt buckles, in this case brass, helped eliminate the skin allergy within one week to five weeks, the team said.

Clothing styles and the size of people's bodies are contributing to the exposure potential, the authors wrote.

“[E]xposure of extraneous abdominal tissue to metal via low-waist jeans may yield a higher surface area for nickel content,” they wrote.

Two American Academy of Dermatology committees are working on a position statement they hope will spur further reductions in nickel where it could contact skin, Jacob told Bloomberg BNA by e-mail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Abstracts of studies published online in Pediatrics are available at http://www.jpeds.com/, which has instructions about purchasing the full study.