Health risk fear over new coins.

Experts warn that Britain's new 5 and 10p nickel-plated coins have not been tested for the health risks they might pose.

The new coins, which were put into circulation by the Royal Mint earlier in the year as part of a cost saving measure, are similar to those that have been banned in Sweden because of "unacceptable risks to health".

British dermatologists are calling on the Government to assess and publish the allergy risk from the new coins..

But in a letter to the website of the British Medical Journal, Danielle Greenblatt and Ian White of St John's Institute of Dermatology and David Gawkrodger of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital have called for the new coins to be reassessed.

They say there has been no consideration by the Treasury or the Royal Mint given to the potential costs to health in terms of skin disease, the financial implications to the NHS or other costs to the taxpayer.

Their letter points out that the Treasury's Swedish counterparts, Swedish Riksbank, recently concluded that nickel-plated coins "pose unacceptable risks to health" and they will "not be using nickel containing alloys in their coinage".

"The Royal Mint may have followed all the rules with regards to the introduction of new coinage, but there is still no proof that those with hand eczema – dermatitis – or nickel contact allergies will not suffer," the authors say.

The letter calls on the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, to give his opinion on the matter.

The design of the 5p coin has not been changed but they have become magnetic for the first time. They are also slightly thicker – raising concern that vending machines will have to be adapted to accept them.

The changewas designed to save the Royal Mint between £7m and £8m a year by abandoning the use of copper, which has surged in price over recent years. Making the cupronickel alloy is also a relatively expensive process.

The Royal Mint said it "adhered to all the relevant legislation and guidelines relating to the introduction of new coinage and can confirm 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".

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