Is tattoo ink harmful to your health? – A far cry from their tribal predecessors made with dyes from the natural environment, many of today’s tattoos contain an unknown conglomeration of metallic salts, organic dyes or plastics suspended in a carrier solution for consistency of application. Without full disclosure of ingredients, it is impossible to know for sure what is in tattoo ink. Added to this, each color and each brand of ink has completely different ingredients, according to a 2005 study from Northern Arizona University.
In a recent European Commission’s report on the health risks of tattooing, they note that close to 40% of organic colorants used in permanent tattoos in Europe are not even approved for use on the skin as a cosmetic ingredient and just under 20% of the colorants studied contained a carcinogenic aromatic amine. Many of the chemicals found were originally intended for use in writing and printer inks, as well as automobile paints. These inks are injected deep enough into the skin that often tattoos will not even be destroyed by severe burns.
European countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands are working to regulate tattoo application, and possibly “initiate the restriction process.” In America, the FDA regulates some of the ingredients in cosmetics worn on the skin, and vitamins, drugs and food additives ingested into the body, but it does not regulate these toxic inks we put under our skin. Their official stance:
“Because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.“
The FDA also does not require ingredient disclosure on the inks—they are considered proprietary (trade secrets)—and so tattoo inks may contain any chemical, including those known to be mutagenic (capable of causing mutations), teratogenic (capable of causing birth defects), and carcinogenic (capable of causing cancer), or involved in other biochemical reactions in the body that might take decades to appear. Surprisingly, the FDA does not list cancer in their list of potential tattoo risks, citing only infection, removal problems, allergic reactions, granulomas, keloid formation, and MRI complications.
So what do you do if you have a tattoo and are concerned about the possible health risks? Our medical team at Inkfree, MD has been evaluating and monitoring the lastest research and recommend initiating laser tattoo removal to minimize any long term potential health risks. While laser tattoo removal does break up these pigments and circulate them via the lymphatic system, they eventually end up with other waste products in the liver or kidneys where they will be eliminated naturally.