Tag Archives: heavy metals

Tattoo Ink Contains Carcinogens

Tattoos used to be the “body art” of only sailors, bikers, and construction workers.

No more.

Made fashionable by rock stars and movie stars, such as the beauteous Angelina Jolie, tattoos have become commonplace and especially popular among teens and young women.

There have long been concerns about the safety of tattoos — with the sterility of the shops and needles. The latest concerns, however, have to do with tattoo ink. Environmental Health News is reporting that the FDA is taking a closer look at the toxicity of tattoo ink after an increase in complaints.

Danika Carter reports for Greenwala, Sept 2, 2011, that recent studies have shown that tattoo inks contain carcinogens, phthalates, heavy metals, allergens, and endocrine disruptors. Little is known about the long-term safety of tattoos as the studies just haven’t been done.

Some of the dangerous ingredients found in tattoo ink include:

  • benzo(a)pyrene
  • dibutyl phthalate
  • lead
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • nickel
  • titanium
  • other heavy metals
  • soot
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Some of these carcinogens are extremely potent. At least 1 of them is used in lab tests to give tumors to rats.  

According to Environmental Health News, “The FDA has the power to regulate tattoo inks and any added colorings under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. But the agency has never flexed its regulatory power, citing lack of evidence of safety concerns and other public health priorities.”

An FDA spokesperson told Environmental Health News, “the dyes and inks used in tattoos have not been approved by FDA, we do not know the specific composition of what these inks and dyes may contain. Therefore, we are unable to evaluate for chronic health concerns, such as cancer.”

It is bad enough that for some of the tattoo ink ingredients, such as lead, there is no safe level. Added to the dangers of the individual ingredients is the unknown interactive effect of compounded chemicals.

And it goes without saying that the potentially harmful effects of the chemicals multiply with the number of tattoos. As the saying goes:

Caveat emptor!

~Eowyn