My friend Jake is allergic to his iPhone. When he came to visit from Tokyo last week, I wondered why he was wearing biker gloves and why his iPhone and laptop were fully encased in rubber. When I asked him about it, this is what he said:
It started one weekend in the middle of January. I had been writing on my 17-inch Macbook Pro for about three hours straight when I noticed my palms started to sting. They were bright red, and and a rash had developed from my palms down to parts of my wrist; the webs between my fingers were also swelling up. It didn't itch — it just felt strange, sort of numb, stung a little, and I actually thought I'd gotten a third-degree, low-heat burn from the laptop.
A few days later, I noticed that whenever I held my iPhone, my fingers would sting and get red. I started to get red spots on my wrist. By the end of January, the bottom of my feet were constantly inflamed and red as well. It took me a while to realize that it was actually my metal alloy bath tub* that was causing that. Now I have to wear socks to soak in it.
At first I got diagnosed with shingles. When they saw that it was also on my hands and feet, they thought I had syphilis. Metal allergies are developed. Once your body decides it's allergic, it stays allergic. Some brands of canned coffee in Japan will make my lips puff up as well. If I really have too much metal exposure in a day, my whole body breaks out in a red rash. I can't wear a watch. I carry wooden chopsticks.
It seems like Mac products and whatever alloys are in them is the worst. My "naked" iPhone feels like it is burning my hand when I hold it. As a writer, it's slightly ironic that the tools of my trade — my MacBook Pro and iPhone — are actually poison.
I feel like a low-rent werewolf. You don't need an expensive silver bullet to wound me. An iPhone will do the trick. Or a nickel alloy spoon. I'm like Superman in a kryptonite world, except I don't get any bonus super powers.
*metal bathtubs are quite common in Japan, where Jake lives.
It's likely that Jake has mobile phone dermatitis or metal contact dermatitis, allergic reactions supposedly developed after long contact to the nickel in modern gadgets. A report published this month in the Dermatology Online Journal concludes that "cell phone allergic contact dermatitis is an emerging problem and should be considered in the differential diagnosis for unilateral ear and/or face dermatitis."