Think before you ink

| Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 16, 2016


With the rising popularity of tattoos, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeing an increase in reports of people developing infections from contaminated inks, besides having bad reactions to the inks themselves.

Outlining some tattoo-related concerns, the FDA says that it's true that you can get infections from unhygienic practices and equipment that is not sterile. But in the last several years there have been cases in which people have got infections because the ink itself was contaminated with micro-organisms, such as bacteria and mould introduced either at the time of manufacture or at the tattoo parlour. Using non-sterile water to dilute the pigments is a common culprit, although not the only one.

There’s no sure-fire way to tell if the ink is safe. Just looking at it or smelling it won’t tell you if it’s contaminated. An ink can be contaminated even if the container is sealed or wrapped. Ink could become contaminated at any point in the production process.

The FDA is analysing tattoo inks and pigments for contaminants, heavy metals, degradants, potentially toxic chemicals — including pH stabilisers, microbicides and coating agents — and other materials that are not intended to be placed into the body. There are reports in the published scientific literature of tattoo inks that contain everything from pigments used in printer toner to pigments used in car paint.

Think before you ink, says the FDA, because of all the unknowns involved. Despite advances in laser technology, removing a tattoo is a painstaking process and complete removal without scarring may be impossible. If you do decide to get a tattoo, make sure the tattoo parlour and artist are in compliance with all local laws, says the agency.

Source: USFDA

Published on May 16, 2016
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