Considering the widespread use of copper in dentistry, medicine, industrial use, coinage and personal adornment, copper sensitivities are rare. According to a 1998 report in the British Medical Journal, from 1960 to 1976, St John’s Institute of Dermatology treated only one case of copper contact allergy, which occurred in a woman whose hobby was copper beating 15.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system overreacts to a substance that the body mistakenly perceives as harmful 2. White blood cells produce antibodies, which enter the bloodstream and attach to cells. This prompts the release of histamines that cause allergic symptoms such as:
- skin rash
- muscle pain
- hair loss
Sources of Allergens
Copper Supplements Side Effects
Copper in the environment has potential to trigger an allergic reaction from sources such as industrial wastes, pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, swimming pool chemicals and even permanent wave hair solutions. Dentistry uses copper in amalgam fillings. Medical appliances such as IUDs have caused reactions. Industrial use of copper is commonplace in piping and electrical wiring. Acidic food or beverages such as beer, tap water and pasteurized milk left standing in copper plumbing pipes or copper cookware can dissolve quantities of copper sufficient enough to cause acute toxicity, according to MoonDragon's Health & Wellness site 3. Tobacco and the use of oral contraceptives can cause an increase of serum copper in the body.
- Copper in the environment has potential to trigger an allergic reaction from sources such as industrial wastes, pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, swimming pool chemicals and even permanent wave hair solutions.
- Medical appliances such as IUDs have caused reactions.
IUDs have been a cause of copper allergies. The German “Die Medizinische Welt” published the case of a woman developing a rare allergic reaction with itchy skin eruptions after the insertion of a copper IUD, as determined by an allergy scratch test. Fillings for tooth cavities may consist of a combination of metals including copper. “The Science of the Total Environment” cited an article that concluded long-term exposure to copper from copper-rich amalgam fillings, in combination with a copper intake from drinking water, caused a contact allergy in a 65-year-old female 5.
- IUDs have been a cause of copper allergies.
- The Science of the Total Environment” cited an article that concluded long-term exposure to copper from copper-rich amalgam fillings, in combination with a copper intake from drinking water, caused a contact allergy in a 65-year-old female 5.
Food and Supplements
Allergic Reaction to Tungsten
The World Health Organization suggests safe consumption of copper is 10mg to 12mg per day. Excessive supplementation or low levels of zinc can result in raised levels of copper, causing serious long-term health problems that include liver failure and death. Although sudden copper toxicity from ingestion is very rare, the body’s reaction may cause symptoms such as:
- metallic taste
- abdominal pain
- yellow skin
Wilson's disease is a rare hereditary disorder in which copper accumulates due to the body's inability to metabolize the metal.
If you suspect you have copper toxicity from food or supplements, decrease your intake of foods rich in copper such as:
- black pepper
- whole grains
See your health care professional if you experience a contact allergy from a metallic source.
Copper Supplements Side Effects
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- PubMed.gov: “British Medical Journal:” Copper is Unlikely to Cause Contact Allergy: Department of Dermatology, Queen’s Medical Centre, Andrew Morris et al; 1998
- Allergic Reactions Guide: Allergic Reactions To Copper Article
- MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Copper Toxicity: Causes
- PubMed.gov: Allergic Reactions Against Copper Containing IUDs: Beckmann M. et al; 1979
- Copper Allergy from Dental Copper Amalgam?
- MedlinePlus: Copper Poisoning: Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA; 2010
- Fusco D., Colloca G, Lo Monaco, MR, et al. Effects of antioxidant supplementation on the aging process. Clin Interv Aging. 2007 Sep; 2(3): 377–387.
- Hatori Y, Lutsen S. An Expanding Range of Functions for the Copper Chaperone/Antioxidant Protein Atox1. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Sep 20; 19(9): 945–957. DOI: 10.1089/ars.2012.5086
- Klevay LM. Heart failure improvement from a supplement containing copper, European Heart Journal (2006). 27(1): 117. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehi634
- Lazarchick J. Update on anemia and neutropenia in copper deficiency. Curr Opin Hematol. 2012 Jan; 19(1):58-60. DOI: 10.1097/MOH.0b013e32834da9d2
- Medline Plus. Copper in Diet.
- Richmond SJ, Gunadasa S, Bland M, MacPherson H. Copper Bracelets and Magnetic Wrist Straps for Rheumatoid Arthritis – Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects: A Randomised Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Crossover Trial. PLOS ONE. 2013. 8(9): e71529. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071529
- Roshan-Mahdavi M, Ebrahimi M., Ebrahimi A. Copper, magnesium, zinc and calcium status in osteopenic and osteoporotic post-menopausal women. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2015 Jan-Apr; 12(1): 18–21. DOI: 10.11138/ccmbm/2015.12.1.018
- Sheigber IF, Mercer JFB, Dringen R. Metabolism and functions of copper in brain. Progress in Neurobiology. 2014. 116: 33-57. DOI: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2014.01.002
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.
Gord Kerr's professional background is primarily in business and management consulting. In 1991, Kerr started writing freelance for a small local newspaper, "The Summerland Review," and a leading sailing publication, "Cruising World Magazine." Kerr has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfred Laurier University.