Nickel in jewellery

In ‘free from’ world, we are well accustomed to product recalls being issued for food and drink — but perhaps less so for non-food products.

The EU also has measures in place to withdraw other potentially dangerous products from the market — such as cosmetics, clothing and toys — and issues alerts for them on a weekly basis.

One such alert today caught my eye — for heavily nickel-leaching jewellery. You can view it here.

I hadn’t heard of the REACH regulation until I read this alert. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, and has been in force for over a decade. Its purpose is to “improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals”.

Nickel is a potent skin-sensitising allergen, and up to 6% of women may have a nickel allergy. Nickel free razors and shavers aren’t always easy to find — you can find some here — and neither is guaranteed nickel-free jewellery, which is what makes this case notable — the product was labelled ‘nickel and lead free’.

Curiously, the product doesn’t appear to have been withdrawn because it infringed the ‘free from’ claim, but because it leached too much nickel. This very interesting Annex to the REACH legislation explains that jewellery for piercings should not release nickel at a rate greater than 0.2μg per cm2 per week (0.5μg for ordinary non-pierced skin contact). The figure for the withdrawn earrings was given as 6.67mg per cm2 per week — a colossal amount more than permitted.

I like that these systems are in place to keep people with allergy safe. So much focus is on food-related allergy recalls that it may be reassuring to know that those with contact dermatitis and eczema are to some extent similarly protected in the EU.


  1. dairyfreebabyandme

    I have nickel allergy. but am OK with razors. Jewellery is another thing altogether. I have finally found fantastic titanium earrings that have made such a difference, to me. Your article might explain why other supposedly nickel-free jewellery has affected me. If anyone else is interested in the titanium jewellery check out Serenity Jewellery, which stock Blomdahl earrings. As always, am not sponsored, not an Ad of any description, just an honest recommendation!!

    1. Alex G (Post author)

      Thank you – that’s good to have a recommendation. I did want to include a list of safe options, but may add it in later when I’ve more time to research it properly!


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