AnchorCert Analytical shares its Nickel expertise at global event
July 8, 2015 – Restrictions on nickel have been in place in the EU since 1995, when the extent of the damage to human health caused by sensitisation to nickel was identified.
This became particularly evident with the advent of multiple body piercings, a major cause of sensitisation where the post assemblies release nickel ions that can penetrate the body while the piercing wound is healing. Dermatologists called for measures to be taken to prevent this by restricting nickel release in jewellery and other items that come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin.
Assay Office Birmingham has been at the heart of the development of nickel testing and research since the original European Nickel Directive was launched in 1995. Twenty years on, The Nickel Institute – a global association of world nickel producers – recently held a workshop to identify and discuss the achievements of the 1995 directive to date, review current perspectives and address the challenges ahead. Technical Director of Assay Office Birmingham’s AnchorCert Analytical Laboratory, Dippal Manchanda, has researched factors affecting nickel release intensively. His expertise was the obvious choice for The Nickel Institute when selecting speakers to present new information at its workshop.
Dippal Manchanda said: “I was honoured to be invited to address this global audience, which included eminent nickel experts from all over the world. Many years of thorough research at AnchorCert Analytical has helped us to really understand the factors that impact nickel release, and I was pleased to be able to share this important knowledge. As a result of ongoing research and international collaboration, The Nickel Institute is hugely better informed than it was a decade ago and together we can significantly reduce the risk of nickel allergies, which can be totally disabling in their most extreme form.”
The full-day workshop in Brussels included presentations from a variety of experts. These included an overview of how the legislation has developed from an EU Directive to part of the extensive EU REACH Regulation; a review of the properties and uses of nickel; reports from a toxicologist and dermatologist, and views on standardization, involvement and enforcement. The definition of “prolonged and direct contact with the skin” was also discussed and examination of this principle remains ongoing.
Dippal’s informative presentation drew very much on the outcomes of the significant research he and his team at AnchorCert Analytical have done to better understand the chemical process of nickel release. The EN 1811 test, prescribed by the Directive and updated in 2011 to improve consistency of results, has been heavily criticised due to its lack of repeatability, high failure rates for alloys, which passed the previous EN 1811: 1998 test and “no decision” category. After emphatic negative reaction to the “no decision” category, led by Assay Office Birmingham and supported heavily by members of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, the CEN Working Group have reconsidered and this will now be removed in an amendment due for implementation in October 2016. However the lack of repeatability remains and the test method has been vigorously questioned by some.
Manchanda argues that after significant research by AnchorCert Analytical, findings suggest that the method is valid but the multiple factors affecting the level of nickel released from an article create a set of variables that will always make nickel release inconstant. These include surface finish, cracks and porosity in the plating and metallurgical treatments such as annealing. The presence or absence of other elements in the alloy can also affect nickel release, and there is also the danger of possible contamination with nickel during fabrication – for example drawing a wire through a stainless steel die. Release will inevitably vary from one item to another in a production batch in many cases. The only way the supply chain can be truly sure that products do not release nickel is to produce and use nickel-free alloys.