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Metal Allergies
Article © MAIL User: Daemon_Lotos

There's a lot of information out there, but very little about metal allergies and/or the specific makeup of certain metals.

I posted this in a thread on TRL's Chainmail Forum awhile back... Had to go hunting for it the other day when someone asked a question... I thought I'd turn it into an article to save it disappearing.

Aluminium: You can be allergic to Aluminium, but it's very rare to have an adverse skin reaction.
The main caveat with BA, AA, or plain Aluminium, is oxidization. Regular aluminium will leave 'black marks' (Aluminium oxide) on your skin fairly quickly, within seconds sometimes. Bright Aluminium will not, provided you wash it occasionally. (Once a day or so if you wear it 24/7... For something like a bracelet, washing it when you wash your hands is easy.) Anodized Aluminium shouldn't leave any oxidization until the coating starts to wear off, at which point it's essentially raw Aluminium.

Precious Metals: Pure Silver, Gold or Platinum should be almost allergy free. I say almost, because unless it's 100% pure, it can be alloyed with something to which a wearer is allergy prone, and nothing is completely allergy free, there will always be a member of the population whom it affects.
That leads me to White Gold, which is often alloyed with Nickel (I'll get to Nickel later) to give it the white colour... This is bad.
Also, in the precious metal alloy group is Sterling Silver, (.925). In case you're wondering what .925 means, it means it is 92.5% Pure Silver. (The 7.5% is usually copper, with other trace elements.)
There is also Argentium Sterling Silver which is another (trademarked) Silver alloy, also .925, of the remainder, 6.4% is Copper, and 1.2% is Germanium.

Copper, Brass and Bronze: Again these are relatively allergy free, though should not be used for piercings in most cases as it is mildly toxic to the human body. (The tolerable upper intake due to ingestion is 10 mg/day)
As far as external wear goes, the main problem with copper is its ability to turn skin green. The oxidization process in Copper, builds up a layer of tarnish on the piece, which will interact with the skin and leave the green colour behind. Commercial cleaners like Brasso, or homemade cleaning solutions (as well as tumbling) will remove this tarnish from the piece in question.

Steel: Steel varies greatly depending on the type and the alloy, all are generally fine for external wear, though people with extremely acidic skin CAN corrode Stainless Steel (VERY VERY rare).
In regards to piercings, Surgical Stainless is considered relatively allergy free, and is usually used by piercers, but will cause reactions for people with extreme sensitivity.
(It is important to note that even Surgical Stainless (Alloy 316) can contain up to 12% Nickel... See Below for Nickel)
Galvanized Steel, or Mild Steel, should obviously not be used for piercings.
Galvanized Steel comes with another caveat... As heating it will cause the zinc coating to oxidize, and prolonged exposure to zinc fumes can cause mental illness, or even death.
See: Zinc Poisoning

Inconel: Inconel is again, fine for external use. And has higher corrositivity resistance than Stainless Steel... Though as the main TRL page for it says... I can't imagine where you'd need to use chainmail, that would corrode stainless steel.
Inconel is a Nickel-Chromium 'super alloy'. Nickel and Chromium (as well as other alloying elements) levels vary depending on the Inconel, but are always the first and second metal content, respectively.

Nickel: Ah Nickel, the source of most of your metal allergy issues... Nickel is most commonly found in 'costume jewellery' available from chain stores geared towards younger girls. As well as watch bands, cellphone faces, etc. Many many people in the world develop nickel allergies over the course of their lives, some cannot wear them as piercings, some can't even touch it. (There are recent cases of dermatological problems arising from the use of nickel in cellphone keypads coming in contact with people's faces.)
Many alloys contain Nickel, as it is an excellent 'whitener', and for most people (even those with nickel allergies) this is okay. But there will always be people with extreme reactions to products containing even trace amounts of Nickel... If someone tells you they have a Nickel allergy... White Gold and Surgical Stainless are probably on the hitlist.

Titanium, and Niobium: These guys are the polar-opposite of Nickel, and are considered 'hypo-allergenic', and as such are fine for most any uses. From piercings to jewellery, to armor. (Titanium being excellent because of its strength, and yet light weight.) You should note, however, that *NO* metal is 100% allergy free. And while rare, it is possible for someone to react to Niobium or Titanium.
(Also, bear in mind that Titanium that you purchase will be often an alloy. TRL sells CP Grade 2 (which is pure Ti) as well as Grade 5 TI-AL6-V4, which contains 6% Aluminium and 4% Vanadium)

At the end of the day, any one person can be allergic to just about anything. If you're looking for relatively safe bets for piercings, Titanium, Niobium and Fine Silver are the way to go. (Also, Enamelled Copper should be fine, unless they're allergic to the enamel coating, but that's beyond the scope of this article.)
As far as external wear... Pretty much anything that doesn't contain Nickel is usually fine.
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