Since 2003, when I owned a 12″ Powerbook, the skin on the tips of my fingers would become dry, hard and then crack, all within minutes of touching the metal surface on specific metal Apple products. This became obvious as Apple moved away from the polycarbonate cases for their laptops to the aluminium and Unibody designs. In fact, after the aluminium 12″ PowerBook, I acquired a black polycarbonate 13″ Powerbook, and the symptoms went away. It was only during that period when using my brother’s 15″ (pre-unibody) aluminium Powerbook for a few hours that the symptoms immediately returned and I realised I was not crazy!
Not wishing to exaggerate, but the pain that this leads to is significant. Amongst other things, it makes typing almost impossible, in particular because primary typing fingers are always effected. The cracks expose the nerves within each finger, so touching anything or allowing any fluid (other than room temperature water) into the cracks is very painful. Putting a plaster on protects the finger from further harm, but does not prevent fluids or pressure from effecting it. Peeling citrus fruit such as grapefruit is of course out of the question!
Wearing gloves or putting plasters over the injured area makes typing very fiddly, slow and inconvenient. It also looks very unpleasant in a public or professional environment.
6 or 7 years ago I began to take photos of what happened to my fingers and do some research. At the start I was embarrassed to even discuss this with my doctor, but in 2012 or 2013 I finally went to see him and he confirmed it is a skin allergy similar to that afflicting those react to metal jewellery.
Fig 3 – May 2014
For the first few years I got nowhere in my research (Apple staff had no record of this condition), however, finally in June 2014, I came across discussion threads on Apple’s own support and external forums [A] [B] that mention Dyshidrosis. This is an allergy to nickel, or in this case, a nickel compound that Apple adds to the coating on their aluminium based products, possibly including:
- Unibody MacBooks
- Mac mini case
- Aluminium Apple keyboards
- Rear of aluminium iPhones
- Rear of aluminium based Bluetooth Magic mouse
- Magic trackpad
Comparing the photos of Dyshidrosis symptoms to my own, I do not think my fingers are afflicted with that condition, so more research is required! Am also going to research if the silver coating on the glass trackpad on the recent Macbooks is also part of the problem.
From day one, I have purchased or made and applied plastic film or cloth to my Apple toys, however, this does become annoying and/or impractical. It is very fiddly to cover the gaps between keyboard keys that fingers make contact with fairly frequently when typing. All the commercially available protective films (such as from Zagg) are designed just for that, to protect the device, not the user!
Note that in February 2014 Fitbit were forced to recall their Force wearable.
Fig 2- January 2010
Fig 1 – April 2008
I now have a MacBook Pro 15″ with plastic film over the front area, but use an external keyboard at my desk. I have yet to find an alternative to Apple’s hardware that offers the right mix of features, not to mention, to migrate to Windows or other OS would involved moving and potentially converting a lifetime of files that exceed over 100,00! And learning an all new OS after >20 years of Mac use.
Update – September 29 2014: And this is an important one! a) After a period without touching anything Apple metal, the allergy returned, and guess what? It was the zips on my otherwise superb rather expensive North Face backpack! I immediately stopped using it and the allergies went away. They must use nickel on the zips. I will write to them in due course. And this brings me onto my next far more important point: b) Whilst on a flight to Germany this month, I happened to sit next to a (qualified) chemist who works for a company producing compounds used in aircraft. I happened to bring up my allergy and he immediately whispered in my ear “Well, just recently the EU have marked nickel as toxic to humans, and it is now banned from products.” There you go! No smoke without fire. eh?
For the record, I am not the litigious type and do not bear any grudge against Apple or any other company producing products that cause allergies. Plus, I have no interest in taking legal action or profiting from this financially. Nobody acted with intent, it is just one of those things, no different to any other allergy really.
I love Apple and cats, and am allergic to both! Typical. I even sneeze after drinking my first sip of some beers on any given day – really! Quiet funny to bemused barstaff!
- Boy allergic to his iPad
Sydney Morning Herald – July 15 2014
#aluminium #aluminum #allergy #dyshidrosis #nickel #apple #unibody