Formaldehyde is found in many products, added in order to give a longer shelf life. While there are significant concerns about its carcinogenic properties (it has caused cancer in laboratory rats, but similar tests could not be ethically performed in humans), formaldehyde is a definite source of allergic reactions in people.
In the case of baby wipes, a preservative known as quaternium-15 causes an allergic response in babies and adults.
"Basically how it works is it's a molecule that releases small amounts of formaldehyde over time," said Anderson.
Because he generally sees adults in his practice, he said that patients who have an allergy are usually mothers who get rashes on their hands from the baby wipes.
On children, the rash is typically on the buttocks where the wipe is used.
Jacob, who has studied the chemical's presence in other products used for babies, said it can also be found in baby shampoo and is a possible reason for an increase in allergies.
"We don't know the long-term effect of sensitizing our children and our newborns to these chemicals," she said.
While nickel may be a more common allergen, cobalt and chromium are two other metals that can present allergy problems.
Cobalt is often found in nature with nickel, and is also in blue glass, cookware and utensils.
The most common use of chromium is in the tanning of leather, according to Jacob, which can present a problem for the fashion-conscious chromium-allergy sufferer.
Both metals are also used in dyes (cobalt for blue and chromium for green), and that is the source of another chromium allergy problem.
Chromium salt is an agent used with felt in order to give it a green color, and so it can be found on pool and poker tables.
While the allergy is relatively uncommon, it does occur often enough to have its own name -- "blackjack dermatitis."
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