The world production of copper is steadily increasing. Although humans are widely exposed to copper-containing items on the skin and mucosa, allergic reactions to copper are only infrequently reported. To review the chemistry, biology and accessible data to clarify the implications of copper hypersensitivity, a database search of PubMed was performed with the following terms: copper, dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, contact hypersensitivity, contact sensitization, contact allergy, patch test, dental, IUD, epidemiology, clinical, and experimental. Human exposure to copper is relatively common. As a metal, it possesses many of the same qualities as nickel, which is a known strong sensitizer. Cumulative data on subjects with presumed related symptoms and/or suspected exposure showed that a weighted average of 3.8% had a positive patch test reaction to copper. We conclude that copper is a very weak sensitizer as compared with other metal compounds. However, in a few and selected cases, copper can result in clinically relevant allergic reactions.
Contact Dermatitis, 2014, Vol 71, Issue 4, p. 191-201