The detrimental side effects of tattoos are known, but are often being ignored. Many just assume that tattooing is safe due to its popularity. Others simply fail to do their research before being injected with dies, plastics and paints. Many feel that because tattoo parlors are regulated, then the ink should be to, but that is just not true. The possibility of infection with life altering infections is also present. The biggest health risk is because of heavy metal poisoning because of tattoo ink. There are things everyone should know before they’re tattooed. I will endeavor to notify you of the major risks.
There are ways to avoid these effects of tattooing and I will share those with you. But first, let’s look at some statistics.
According to Statistic Brain (2016),
• Americans spend a whopping 1.655 Billion dollars on tattoos yearly.
• Americans who have at least one tattoo totals 45 Million people.
• The proportion of individuals who regret getting a tattoo is 17%.
Why are People Getting Tattoos?
These statistics are staggering numbers to me. It’s surprising that this many people want to risk their health to skin art. Individuals are motivated to get tattoos for many different reasons which range from sporting art on their skin, remembering a loved one or to look sexy or dangerous. The motivation is unimportant for today’s topic, but I just wanted to give you a little background.
The Hazards of Tattoo Ink Carriers
What are the dangers of tattoo ink carriers? Carriers are utilized to maintain the ink, plastic or paint evenly distributed during application and inhibits the growth of pathogens (bacteria/viruses). Please understand that these ingredients are not regulated for use in tattooing by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in most states.
• Ethyl Alcohol – rubbing alcohol is for use externally and should not be injected into the skin. It can cause skin drying, irritation and can negatively affect nerves.
• Glycerin – it is the sugar alcohol glycerol and may cause increased nausea and bleeding.
• Listerine – is an alcohol based mixture of menthol, methyl salicylate, thymol (from thyme oil), and eucalyptol (liquid derived from eucalyptus oil). It can cause skin irritation and localized allergic reactions.
• Propylene Glycol – is the primary ingredient in antifreeze which can be damaging to your liver and kidneys.
The Hazards of Tattoo Ink
This was only the carriers. What is in each color of ink? Many of these inks have ingredients that you shouldn’t even apply to the skin, much less inject into the bloodstream rick lower layer of skin. The epidermis is the outer layer of skin that’s composed of dead skin cells and functions as an entire body bandage. It protects us from germs and viruses. The dermis is the living skin underneath the skin. Matters injected into the dermis can be carried away by the blood to all areas of the body. That’s why we get infections once we have a cut or scrape of our skin. The protective epidermis is damaged.
What is in the ink? Most inks contain acrylic resin (plastic molecules), but they also contain other components. They’re listed below by color according to Helmenstine (2017) and my own study.
• Black ink – Iron oxide (rust), charcoal or carbon – this is probably the least dangerous ink. The quantity of Iron oxide should be inadequate to cause iron toxicity. Ask the tattoo artist to use purified water as a carrier.
• Blue Ink – Copper, carbonite (azurite), sodium aluminum silicate (lapus lazuli), calcium copper silicate (Egyptian blue), cobalt aluminum oxides and chromium oxides. Copper can contribute or lead to heavy metal poisoning. Aluminum has been proven to feature to Alzheimer’s disease and gastrointestinal disorders.
• Brown ink – Iron oxide and iron ochre clay – this is probably as secure as black ink and for the same reasons. Lead chromate comes from lead which is poisonous even in low doses. Cu phthalocyanine is an unregulated compound of copper and can cause skin irritation and respiratory irritation.
• Orange ink – Disazodiarylide and/or disazopyrazolone, and cadmium sulfate make orange ink. The first two are considered safe, but the cadmium sulfate is deemed toxic and possibly cancer causing.
• Purple – Manganese violet, quinacridone and dioxazine and the first of these is deemed safe.
• Red – Cinnabar, cadmium red, iron oxide and naphthol-AS pigment are the various components of red ink. It is considered by most to be the most hazardous color of tattoo ink. Cadmium sulfate is derived from lead and is poisonous. Yellow derived from the spice turmeric or curcuma yellow is deemed safe. The problem with yellow is the volume that must be used to provide a vibrant yellow color, so local irritation of the skin often occurs.
• White – Titanium dioxide, lead white, barium sulfate and zinc oxide (the stuff you smear on your nose at the beach). Titanium dioxide has caused cancer in lab animals. Lead white is regarded as a cancer causing agent in humans. Barium comes from the metal barium and can be used in barium swallows for gastrointestinal tests, but when injected can cause skin irritation.
• Glow in the dark ink – composed of compounds that are toxic and in some cases radioactive. This again is unregulated in most states.
Some of the compounds can be considered secure, but testing still has to be done. Some of these compounds are toxic and can cause heavy metal poisoning as the copper, lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and arsenic leach into your blood stream. Aluminum inks may also hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of these inks cause cancer and have known mutagenic properties (cause mutations and birth defects) per Genser (2007). The FDA should be regulating these inks, but in most countries they are not. The majority of states have started regulating tattoo parlors though and at least that’s a start.
Regulation of tattoo parlors has significantly diminished the rate of severe infection. The use of disposable needles has made the fantastic effects. Regulation and disposable one-use needles have removed this danger (as long as the regulations are followed).
One other major concern with tattoo art is the fact that lifesaving MRI scans can’t be achieved in certain instances. This is because the compounds in the ink cause intense burning pain for the patient. This could cause resulting misdiagnosis or the inability to diagnose.
You will find safe tattoo inks out there that are willing to disclose their tattoo formulas. There are several more that are dangerous tattoo inks that are unregulated. Many manufacturers refuse to divulge the formula as confidential proprietary information. The carriers used to evenly distribute ink can also potentially be unsafe. Both the inks or carriers are not regulated by the FDA and regulation of tattoo art is the responsibility of each individual condition.
Tattoo at your own risk. Tattoos can be hazardous or safe based on your preparation for the tattoo. Talk to the tattoo artist. Ask them with the composition of the ink. Choose your colors by which colors are least toxic. Make sure the tattoo artist’s shop has an active Health Department certificate. If you believe you must get a tattoo, please do your research and make an educated decision. Personally, I suggest that you don’t get a tattoo. There are simply too many risks for minor discomforts and lingering side effects like cancer, scaring, granulomas, disease, toxicity and infections, per Mishra (2013). I don’t think it’s worth the risk, but it is your body. Just please study-up and make an educated decision.