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Strange But True: Cell Phone Allergy

Unexplainable itchy rash on your face? A recent investigation indicates the possibility that you – and your kids – may be allergic to the metal in your cell phones. A literature overview published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, reports that many cell phones release low levels of metals. Mobile phone users have potential exposures to nickel and chromium, both of which can cause allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), which typically presents as red, itchy rash in adults and children. The review states that nickel sensitization is common in kids and that the rash can appear on the face, neck, hands, breast, or anterior thighs, which the investigators note are often exposed to cell phones. Nickel release from mobile phones appears to be common and has been reported in both cheap and expensive mobile phones, the reviewers reported. However, they also commented that nickel can be released from a wide variety of items we use every day including jewelry, belt buckles, zippers, buttons, snaps, glasses, coins, and keys. In addition to mobile phones, nickel sensitization – and ACD - can come from the metals in laptop computers, video game controllers, and other technology accessories, according to the reviewers.

Jacob Thyssen et al, “Mobile Phone Dermatitis in Children and Adults: A Review of the Literature,” Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, doi: 10.1089/ped.2013.0308.

How Your Smartphone Can Sabotage Sleep and Your Job

Using your smartphone at home, at night, to deal with work projects can ruin your sleep and leave you with mental fatigue at work the next day. A new study from Michigan State University also suggests that part of the problem is due to the blue-wavelength light given off by smart phones, which appears to interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin. To arrive at their conclusion, researchers surveyed 82 upper-level managers, most of them male, who were studying for MBAs (Master’s in Business Administration degrees). Over a two-week period, the participants completed questionnaires asking them how often they used their smartphones after 9 p.m., and also asked them to report on their sleep quality and their alertness at work during the day. The survey results showed that using smartphones at night was linked to sub-optimal sleep, which in turn led to energy depletion in the morning. A second survey enrolled 136 employees in a wide range of fields whose average age was about 31. This group was more evenly split between men and women. Results confirmed the findings of the first survey and showed that using smartphones at night had more of an impact on sleep than using other electronic devices. The solution? Leave work at work when you can, and turn off your smartphone at night. The study will be published in a future issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision process.

Russell E. Johnson et al, “Beginning the Workday yet Already Depleted? Consequences of Late-Night Smartphone Use and Sleep,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (not yet scheduled for publication).