Leading Nickel-Safe Jewelry Maker Joins American Academy Of Dermatology's Consumer Education Group

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Leading Nickel-Safe Jewelry Maker Joins American
Academy Of Dermatology's Consumer Education Group

Nickel tops the skin allergy chart in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology study.

Roman Research, manufacturer of Simply Whispers and other allergy-safe jewelry, has become a corporate sponsor of a new two-year public awareness program by the American Academy of Dermatology, and is launching nickel-allergy consumer education programs and labeling reforms.

In its role as a corporate sponsor, the Hanson-based company will develop and implement a campaign to make the public aware of how nickel allergies can be brought on by shoddy ear and body piercing, the prevalence of nickel in fashion jewelry, and how an allergy to nickel can be avoided with proper ear piercing and allergy-safe jewelry. With over 14 percent of the population now allergic to nickel, this element is the number one allergen in the industrial world, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and other professional medical publications. "Our decision to play a greater role in consumer education stems from alarm over the dramatic rise of nickel allergy sufferers over the past five years; a rise that makes nickel number one among 49 common contact skin allergens tested by the AAD's North American Contact Dermatitis Group," says Dale Southworth, president of Roman Research. Southworth is spearheading a labeling reform movement to better inform the consumer. Products are marketed through the Simply Whispers national mail order catalog and website.


In the AAD study, nickel was followed by common allergens such as fragrances used in cosmetics; neomycin, a topical antibiotic; thimerosal, a contact lens solution preservative, and balsam of Peru, an ingredient used in ointments. While no one is born with a nickel allergy, experts suspect that the condition is usually caused by exposure to nickel during ear or body piercing or from nickel in earring studs inserted right after piercing. Dr. Donald V. Belsito, an author of the AAD Journal article on topical allergens, speculates that the growing popularity of body piercing is contributing to the rise in nickel allergies.

When it comes to product labeling, most dermatologists dislike the term, "hypoallergenic," and consider it virtually meaningless. As part of Roman Research's involvement in the AAD educational program, the company is calling for labeling reform and is asking industry leaders to develop meaningful solutions. "More informative labeling or a toll-free telephone number that identifies specific common allergens in consumer products would be far more useful. When so-called hypoallergenic jewelry is worn by those who suffer from nickel allergies, they break out, lose confidence in the labeling and give up wearing jewelry. This hurts our industry - and deprives these consumers of the pleasure of wearing earrings, necklaces, bracelets and watches. We need to establish standards consumers can trust. Don't leave them thinking they cannot wear jewelry again," says Southworth who is assembling a team of medical and communication experts to develop an effective labeling program.

A standard guide for dermatologists titled, Fisher's Contact Dermatitis by Alexander A. Fisher, Joseph F. Fowler and Robert L. Rietschel, cites Roman Research of Hanson, Massachusetts as a reliable source of nickel-safe jewelry. In 1970, the company invented the first one-step ear piercing system that uses a surgical stainless steel stud to puncture the lobe. The sterilized stud is used only once and remains in place until the puncture heals, eliminating the danger of transferring pathogens from one individual to another. Today, the company manufactures allergy-safe fine and fashion jewelry exclusively. Products are manufactured from surgical stainless steel with 24 kt. gold electroplating or of nickel-free alloys with 24 kt. gold or palladium electroplating.

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