A new paper has found that most people have a tattoo, but few of them are aware of the long term dangers associated with ink.
While most health experts and safety regulations have made short term risks such as infection, bleeding and pain common knowledge, long term risks still seem to remain a mystery for the most part.
Dr. Andreas Luch, study senior author and member of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Berlin), gave a statement saying that “Almost everybody these days has a tattoo, and nobody is talking about the side effects of ink deposits”.
He went on to add that there’s no proof the ink ingredients injected into the body are safe. Few studies have been conducted in the field and scientists simply don’t have enough data to reach a conclusion. One of the main reasons why it’s hard for experts to asses the long term dangers posed by tattoo inks is that they are classified as cosmetic products in most countries.
What this means is that researchers aren’t allowed to use animals to test the inks’ long-term toxicology. But Dr. Luch firmly believes that tattoo inks should have their own product category.
His main argument is that while surface cosmetics are effectively kept outside of the body by the skin barrier, tattoo inks are still injected into living tissue, meaning that blood vessels, immune cells and nerves all contain traces of these products.
Dr. Luch insists that people “need to assume that all of these ink ingredients, including preservatives, processing aids or whatever, will become systemically available in the body over time”. He stresses that applying cosmetics regulations to these products is insufficient.
But he informs that after inspecting the bodies of deceased tattoo wearers, he learned that 90 percent (90%) of the ink has moved off the skin over the decades. His main question is whether these inks accumulate in the organs (and if so, what kind of damage can they cause) or if they are somehow excreted.
What’s more, this question applies to laser tattoo removal as well. Where do the pigments go when they are fractured or fragmented under a person’s skin?
Dr. Michi Shinohara, dermatologist from the University of Washington (Seattle), did not work on the paper, but fully agrees with it. She gave a statement of her own explaining that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to regulate inks in the United States, and she questioned its decision not to do that.
She suggested that one of the reasons why some people experience short term effects is that the regulation of tattoo artists and tattoo parlors is left to each state to handle, and as a consequence “requirements for operating vary widely”.
The minimal training only covers bloodborne pathogen knowledge, whereas the fairly complex training covers hundreds of hours spent learning under a senior expert.
As far as short term effects go, the new report informs that one to five percent (1% to 5%) of people who get a tattoo end up with a bacterial infection, and some of them can even have an allergic reaction to the ink.
On average, modern day tattoos inks contain organic pigments, however some of them may also have traces of preservatives and contaminants such as arsenic, nickel and lead.
The findings were published on July 23, 2015, in the medical journal The Lancet.
Image Source: tattoohealth.org