Tattoos have become widely popular among all age groups as a form of personal artistic expression, but are they safe?
Many people believe that tattoo ink is made from vegetable dye but the truth is that most tattoo pigments are made up of metal salts and sometimes plastic that is dissolved in a solvent liquid carrier solution that the pigment is suspended in to help move the ink through the needle to the skin.
The carriers (considered safe) can be made from
Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) – developing nervous system very sensitive to low levels of exposure; kids – lowered IQ, learning and behavioral problems; adults – memory loss, inebriation, liver disease, cancer.
They limit infection and prevent contamination.
Carriers may also be made of non-desirable sources
Denatured alcohols – are TOXIC and may be fatal if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.
Methyl alcohol – repeated contact can cause skin cracking and dryness, possible liver damage, headaches, dizziness, and even death.
Methanol – can affect the nervous system, but is water soluble so washes out fairly quickly
Isopropyl alcohol – the CDC suggests preventing skin contact. Can cause irritation to skin, eyes, nose, throat, dizziness, headache, dry cracking skin.
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) – Is not intended for internal or topical use on humans. Can cause acute toxicity by dermal exposure. Can cause lesions, reproductive issues – it has not yet been classified for cancer risk.
Formaldehyde – some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Possible carcinogen.NOTE: Alcohol increases the absorption through the skin, which results in more chemicals getting in your bloodstream.
In the USA tattoo ink is subject to enforcement through the US Food and Drug Administration in the same classification as cosmetics and color additives. The FDA has never approved any color or pigment for injection into the skin. It has been pointed out by the FDA and Medical professionals that the inks are industrial strength colors suitable for printer ink or automotive paint not for injection into the human body.
In California, Proposition 65 requires that tattoo artists warn customers that the tattoo ink may contain heavy metals known to cause cancer, birth defects, endocrine disrupters, and other reproductive issues. Most other states remain unregulated and potential clients uninformed by the shops and artists.
Ingredients are not required to be listed on inks at all and are most often be listed simply as proprietary blends. They can contain literally any chemical, including those known to be mutagenic (capable of causing mutations) and Carcinogenic (capable of causing cancer). Artists, like the general public, do not often have any way of knowing for sure what is in the ink.
Any time you inject anything into your skin you risk infection.
The shop might be spotless, the artist may do everything right…You can still get an infection from contaminated ink.
Tattoo machines puncture the skin 3000 times a minute with each poke leaving a hole 1/64th to 1/16th of an inch in diameter. Tattoo guns work much like a sewing machine piercing the skin over and over again depositing ink to achieve the desired design and effects. The wounds do scab over rather quickly but can still get infected during or after the healing process.
When pigments are injected into the skin because of the way the gun works it is possible that a tiny bit of the ink mixes with bodily fluids and gets sucked backward into the machines themselves. The needles are changed but the machines motors can trap debris, which in theory could get passed on to the next client.
What is IN the inks?
Why some of these metals can be dangerous:
Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it has detrimental effects on the nervous system. It can damage the brain and lead to physical and emotional disorders.
Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many of the body’s organs and tissues, including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, nervous and reproductive systems. In severe cases, lead poisoning symptoms can include seizures, coma, and death. Other symptoms commonly associated with lead exposure include abdominal pain, confusion, headache, anemia, and irritability.
Beryllium is listed as a Class A EPA carcinogen. Exposure can cause Chronic Beryllium Disease, an often-fatal lung disease.
Cadmium is a heavy metal that poses severe risks to human health, including kidney, bone, and pulmonary damage.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and new studies have also found that exposure to higher levels of arsenic leads to genetic damage.
Antimony exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs. As the exposure continues, more serious problems may occur, such as lung diseases, heart problems, diarrhea, severe vomiting, and stomach ulcers.
Iron Oxide (rust) minimal if any health risks.
Cobalt In small amounts cobalt can be beneficial to the body. In larger amounts, however, it can be dangerous causing nausea, vision issues, heart problems, and thyroid damage.
Nickel small quantities are safe. An uptake of too large quantities of nickel has the following consequences: Higher chances of development of lung cancer, nose cancer, larynx cancer and prostate cancer, Sickness and dizziness after exposure to nickel gas, Birth defects, Asthma and chronic bronchitis, Allergic reactions such as skin rashes, mainly from jewelry, and even Heart disorders
Aluminum has been linked directly to Alzheimer’s disease as well as heavy metal toxicity and sickness.
Glow in the dark inks may be not only toxic but radioactive.
*Items in the chart not detailed here below seem to be marked as inert, relatively safe, or at the very least not as dangerous or toxic to humans.
Additional dangers apply when the topic turns to prison tattoos, as the inmates are very limited as to what they have as supplies to use. Human urine, Bic pens, and non-sterile metal objects all can come into play and the risk of infection is huge.
Although most tattoo ink manufacturers consider their ingredient list proprietary information, some brands do release this information and make an effort to produce only non-toxic inks. Some of the tattoo ink manufacturers with the best policies regarding nontoxic inks, according to How-To-Tattoo.com, include National Tattoo Supply, Eternal, Skin Candy, Dynamic and Kuro Sumi, all of which make significant efforts to ensure safe, as non-toxic as possible tattoo inks.
It is an unsolved topic of debate between medical professionals as well as tattoo artists as to if the metals contained in the inks dissipate over time or keep leaching from the tattoo into the rest of the body over the course of the person’s life. The safety and levels are difficult to study given other environmental exposures as to what is a direct result of tattooing.
If you do have or decide to do a tattoo, consider doing an internal cleanse such as BePureas well as incorporating eating things like parsley, cilantro, spirulina, chlorella and chlorophyll to detox the heavy metals in your system.
Tattoo removal sends those particles into the body as they are released which can be incredibly dangerous. More dangerous in fact that getting the tattoo in the first place as these components may cause damage before being eliminated or possibly absorbed back into the bloodstream or other organs.
If you have a tattoo, the best advice is to keep it and leave it where it is… if you don’t have them, do your research before getting one so you can make an informed decision.