Tattoo Ink Toxicity

Tattoo inks contain a number of toxins that can have serious, long-term effects on the body. Tattoo ink is composed of pigments and carriers, which suspend the pigments and keep them evenly mixed to produce a consistent color. The most common carriers are water, glycerin, isopropyl alcohol, and witch hazel.  Pigments are often metallic compounds such as iron oxide and titanium dioxide.  Other additives include preservatives and fragrances.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recently warned that a number of severe, chronic and potentially life-threatening health risks are associated with tattoos. In the US, tattoo inks are classified as cosmetics, which means the inks do not fall under FDA oversight.

Many inks include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are found in naturally-occurring materials such as coal and tar. PAHs from tattoo inks have been found in the lymph nodes of people with tattoos decades after the tattoo was applied. Studies have found that some PAHs are linked to lung, liver, and skin cancers. Exposure to PAHs in tattoo inks may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.

Recent studies have found that some tattoo ink colors are associated with heightened health risks. Red and yellow inks have the greatest effects of genotoxity and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s natural antioxidants are unable to detoxify free radicals, resulting in an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body. This imbalance leads to an excess of free radicals that are able to interact with components of cells within the body, damaging cellular function.

Genotoxic materials are chemical agents that have the potential to damage genetic information within a cell, causing mutations. This means that exposure to genotoxic materials can raise the risk of cancer. Studies have found that red ink causes a reduction in cell viability, and some black inks have been found to reduce mitochondrial activity. Red ink, one of the most popular ink colors, has been found to be associated with an increase in skin irritations and tumors compared to other tattoo ink colors.

In Europe, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation is evaluating the toxic effects of different tattoo inks on a variety of bodily systems, including neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and cardiotoxicity, as well as negatively impacting reproductive health.

Even pure tattoo inks can still be broken down by ultraviolet light and cellular metabolism, which can lead to long-term health effects. As the compounds in tattoo inks break down and enter the blood stream, the chemicals move through the body, impacting every system of the body.

Rethink your Ink!

Comments are closed.