The iPad made by Apple was the first tablet to hit the consumer market and continues to lead tablet sales today. The top selling points of the iPad are its app ecosystem and its build quality. Tech Giant Apple chose to use metal in building the iPad giving it superior build quality and a similar aesthetic to the MacBook. The build quality has also lead other manufacturers such as HTC to shift their design choices for their flagship devices as seen in the flagship HTC One. The choice of using metals in the chassis of the devices is currently becoming more mainstream with rumours of Google releasing a metallic Nexus 9 and Samsung with their Galaxy Alpha.
Manufacturers opt to use metallic chassis for their devices due to its superior build and feel which has often been preferred by consumers as well. Each manufacturer uses a different mixture of metals in making their chassis which consist of different metals such as nickel, aluminium, magnesium and the like.
Paediatric physicians have noticed an increase in the incidence of contact dermatitis in children in recent years. Contact dermatitis is a condition in which the body reacts by releasing inflammatory molecules into blood stream in reaction to any substance which it deems foreign or alien, commonly called allergens. These allergens can be a myriad of substances from pollen to metal particles. Contact dermatitis usually presents itself as rash or inflammation at the point of contact.
“His skin tested positive for nickel, one of the most common allergy-inducing metals, and doctors traced it back to an iPad he had used with increasing frequency the past six months. The iPad tested positive for nickel as well, according to the report.”
What do these two subjects have in common? Well, in a recent article published in the Journal Pediatrics, physicians have noted an increase in the incidence of contact dermatitis in children and have attributed it to an increased exposure to nickel due to nickel being present in increasing quantities in electronics. In one particular case, an 11-year old boy reported onset of a rash. Upon further investigation, the boy was reported to have been using an iPad. The physician did a test on the boys skin and iPad and results indicated the presence of nickel. Nickel is a well known cause of contact dermatitis and is also a very strong allergen. The boy was asked to use a case for his iPad upon which a significant improvement was documented. While Nickel allergies and the resulting contact dermatitis may not be lethal, the resulting rash would cause impaired quality of life for the patient due to the itch caused by the rash.
“With the increasing prevalence of nickel allergy in the pediatric population, it is important for clinicians to continue to consider metallic-appearing electronics and personal effects as potential sources of nickel exposure”
– Dr. Sharon Jacob & Dr. Shehla Admani
While this case may have been a paediatric case, the implications of the report are far reaching as allergies are not only present from birth and can be developed even in advanced age. This combined with the increase in nickel exposure could possibly lead to an increased prevalence in contact dermatitis. In addition, the increased exposure of children to metallic devices such as the iPad, the possibility must be considered by physicians as a plausible cause for the onset of contact dermatitis. This is supported by recent recall of the FitBit Force after the onset of skin irritations in its users. Investigations revealed that these users were suffering from allergic contact dermatitis possibly linked to the nickel used in the band. According to FitBit Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, James Park reported that 1.7% of FitBit users reported onset.
In response to the article, Apple has released a statement stating, ““Apple’s products are made from the highest quality materials and meet the same strict standards set for jewelry by both the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission and their counterparts in Europe”.