Allergy risks with laptop computers – nickel and cobalt release

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Abstract

Background

Laptop computers may release nickel and cobalt when they come into contact with skin. Few computer brands have been studied.

Objectives

To evaluate nickel and cobalt release from laptop computers belonging to several brands by using spot tests, and to quantify the release from one new computer by using artificial sweat solution.

Methods

Nickel and cobalt spot tests were used on the lid and wrist supports of 31 laptop computers representing five brands. The same surfaces were tested on all computers. In addition, one new computer was bought and dismantled for release tests in artificial sweat according to the standard method described in EN1811.

Results

Thirty-nine per cent of the laptop computers were nickel spot test-positive, and 6% were positive for cobalt. The nickel on the surface could be worn off by consecutive spot testing of the same surface. The release test in artificial sweat of one computer showed that nickel and cobalt were released, although in low concentrations.

Conclusions

As they constitute a potential source of skin exposure to metals, laptop computers should qualify as objects to be included within the restriction of nickel in REACH, following the definition of ‘prolonged skin contact’. Skin contact resulting from laptop use may contribute to an accumulated skin dose of nickel that can be problematic for sensitized individuals.

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