A Moment of Science

Euro Itch

People who were itching for the debut of the euro might have gotten more than they hoped for.

People who were itching for the debut of the euro might have gotten more than they hoped for.

A lot of people in Europe have been reporting mild skin rashes after holding the euro– the new coins they use in Europe, so that everyone will have a single currency.

It’s a good idea economically, but there seems to be a problem with the coins themselves. They contain two kinds of nickel. One alloy of nickel is nestled inside a ring of another alloy. That makes it hard to counterfeit, but it also did an unexpected thing–it created a tiny electric current.

About forty millivolts of electricity have been found to flow between the two alloys. You’d never feel a shock, but your skin might notice that the coin it’s holding is slowly corroding.

The effect is subtle, but nickel is a substance to which many people are allergic. If you hold euros for a long time, and have a nickel allergy, you can get eczema-like symptoms from the nickel coming off.

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