There are limits for how much nickel, products, which are for long-term contact with the skin, are allowed to release. The regulations cover a number of metal products which are designed to come into direct contact with the skin, e.g. jewellery, watches, hair clips, mobile phones, zips, and studs in clothes and footwear.
Limits for nickel release
Piercingjewellery, ear studs, etc. which are inserted into holes in ears or the rest of the body, may only contain a maximum of 0.2 mg nickel per cm2 per week.
Other products containing nickel that are designed to come into direct and long-term contact with the skin, e.g. jewellery and mobile phones, must not release more than 0.5 micrograms of nickel per cm2 per week.
Products must be analysed for how much nickel they release, according to the DS/EN 1811 standard "Referenceprøvningsmetode for afgivelse af nikkel fra produkter beregnet til at komme i direkte og længerevarende kontakt med huden" (Reference testing methods for releases of nickel from products designed to come into direct and long-term contact with the skin) in order to document that products comply with the requirement. The analysis report acts as documentation and must be kept for 5 years.
Requirements for coatings
Products containing nickel often have a nickel-free coating, e.g. gold plate or enamel. If this is the case, the nickel-free coating must be durable enough to ensure that nickel releases from the product do not exceed the statutory limits within a period of at least two years from when the product is first taken into use.
In order to prove that the coating is sufficiently durable, a special test of wear and tear has been developed which the product must pass before it is analysed for nickel release under DS/EN 1811. The test of wear and tear is described in DS/EN 12472 "Metode til simulering af slid og korrosion for detektering af frigivelse af nikkel fra overfladebelagte emner" (Methods of simulating wear and corrosion for the detection of releases of nickel from coated items).
Consumers can test whether a product releases nickel
Consumers have no right to demand this documentation when they buy products subject to the regulations. However, consumers can easily test whether a product releases nickel. A nickel testing kit can be used which is available from chemists or chemical suppliers (look in the telephone directory).
Skin contact with nickel kan lead to allergy and eczema
Skin contact with nickel should be limited as it can lead to the development of nickel allergy, a life-long complaint. If people allergic to nickel are exposed to nickel, the condition will be aggravated and can lead to allergic contact eczema.
Manufacturers, importers and dealers are responsible
Anyone producing, importing or selling one or more of the above products is responsible for ensuring that the regulations are complied with as they appear in the legislation.
The Danish EPA Chemical Inspection Service supervises the implementation of the regulations and is authorised to issue injunctions and bans. If the regulations are violated, this may lead to a fine or up to two years’ imprisonment.
Where can I obtain more information?
The rules about release of nickel is to be found in Annex XVII, no 27 out of the Council on REACH (Amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 )
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National REACH helpdesk is a service established in every Member State providing advice to companies and other stakeholders on the obligations they may have under REACH.
The Danish REACH helpdesk:www.reachhelpdesk.dk (in Danish)
Ph: + 45 7012 0211
Read more about REACH and national helpdesks atThe European Chemicals Agency