Blue-Jean Button Nickel: Prevalence and Prevention of Its Release From Buttons

Tina Suneja; Katherine H. Flanagan; Dee Anna Glaser


Dermatitis. 2007;18(4):208-211. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Background: Nickel is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis and is associated with metal buttons and snaps on blue jeans.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of nickel-positive metal buttons on blue jeans and the efficacy of nail polish in the prevention of nickel release.
Methods: We collected 62 pairs of new and preworn blue jeans. The metal buttons were tested for nickel with a dimethylglyoxime test kit, and one coat of clear nail polish was applied to nickel-positive buttons. Painted buttons were dried for 24 hours, and the jeans were washed on delicate cycle and retested for nickel. The jeans underwent a second wash/dry cycle and were retested.
Results: The prevalence of nickel-positive metal buttons on blue jeans was 16%. Ten pairs of jeans tested positive for nickel. All 10 pairs tested negative for nickel after the application of one coat of clear nail polish. Of these 10 pairs, seven pairs underwent two wash/dry cycles, and all seven tested negative for nickel after each cycle.
Conclusion: The presence of nickel-positive blue-jean buttons is greater in new jeans than in preworn jeans. One clear coat of nail polish can prevent nickel release through two wash/dry cycles in a test environment.

Nickel dermatitis is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) in the world, constituting more cases of ACD than do dermatitides from all other metals combined. The incidence of ACD caused by nickel dermatitis is likely underreported, and once ACD is acquired, allergic sensitivity persists indefinitely. Nickel dermatitis is two to six times more common in women than in men.[1] Typically, women acquire nickel dermatitis through direct contact with jewelry (specifically clasps, piercings, necklaces, and watches) as well as with metal buttons, zippers, and belt buckles. Historically, men have developed nickel dermatitis through occupational exposure; however, the increasing popularity of ear and body piercing in men may spawn more instances of nickel ACD through direct contact.[2] Nickel dermatitis is more common in younger individuals, nonatopic patients, and patients with hand eczema.[3,4] Nickel dermatitis is quite prevalent in the pediatric population, with a range of 7.6 to 15.9% of children testing positive for nickel allergy on patch testing.[5,6,7] One common source of nickel exposure in young people is the metal button on blue jeans. Strict avoidance of nickel has been advocated by some authors although no published studies regarding the efficacy of this practice are available, and it is certainly not a practical approach for most children and young adults. In this study, we sought to determine the prevalence of nickel in the metal buttons of commercially available blue jeans. We also investigated the efficacy of clear nail polish in preventing nickel release, given the anecdotal experience with its clinical use as a barrier method against nickel-induced ACD.


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