Think before you tattoo! Are tattoos and tattoo inks safe?
Tattoos are a craze! It has swept the world especially the young population. People ink their skin for various reasons! Many do it without thinking about its long-term consequences! So what are the likely problems that one can encounter with tattoos and tattoo inks?
Tattoos and their short-term ill-effects
Tattoos could cause short-term acute problems as well as long-term side-effects. The site may get markedly inflamed. There may be a local infection at the inked site. Infected dirty needles could also introduce certain disease-causing viruses into the body such as hepatitis C, HIV and the like.
But a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports has also detailed what long-term consequences could result from the inks used in tattoos.
Tattoos and their long-term effects
Tattooing is introducing a chemical pigment into the dermis of the skin. It is of varied colors such as blue, black, red, green, etc. These inks are made up of various organic and inorganic pigments which may have impurities of associated toxic elements.
A team of researchers from France and Germany looked into dead bodies who had tattoos on them. They collected the tissue samples of 6 donated bodies. 4 of these 6 had tattoos on them while 2 did not. 50% of those who were inked had deposits of these pigments in the adjoining lymph nodes. Nanoparticles of toxic elements from tattoo pigment were present there. Chemicals such as aluminum, chromium, iron, nickel, copper, lead, mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and titanium were present in large amounts in these inked corpses.
The main author Bernhard Hesse said:
“And that is the problem: we don’t know how nanoparticles react.”
The effects of these tattoos are thus more than just skin-deep.
Tattoos and cancers
The black pigment could be carcinogenic and causes the most DNA damage. The ink pigments can travel long distances. A 2017 report of European Chemicals Agency also has linked tattoo inks with cancers. They state:
“Many reports show significant concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing. The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.”
The ink could also affect reproductivity and cause birth defects. Red inks contain mercury sulfide and can cause dermatitis.
Tattoo inks and brain damage
Tattoo inks in nanoparticle form have been associated with brain damage and nerve damage. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Researchers who have worked on it say:
“the evidence which we’ve accumulated so far, is largely restricted to the fact that they [nanoparticles] get into your bloodstream and reach organs throughout your body. And as far as the brain is concerned, we have actual evidence of entry into the brain and producing toxic effects — lesions, small lesions, toxic effects in the brain.”
People with tattoos suffered from first-degree burns at the tattoed site when they had an MRI test on them for any reason.
If a person wants to remove the tattoo, the procedure scatters the ink pigments throughout the body and the risk increases.
Non-chemical organic tattoo inks might be better but the tattoo parlors rarely use it. Detoxifying therapies may yield some benefits.
Source: Newsweek, omgfacts, reader’s digest