By Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
New Research on Tattoo Dangers
Admit it… you've thought about it. After all, it's not possible to watch a movie anymore without seeing some famous person sporting their personal symbol in some surprisingly secret, or not-so-secret, location.
When all the big names have them – Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Johnny Depp, Scarlett Johansson – getting a tat has become synonymous for the coolness of self-expression.
Tattoos… are the stories in your heart, written on your skin.
Author, Charles de Lint, The Mystery of Grace
A 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 4 out of every 10 young people aged 18-29 years old (who now, in 2015, are ages 23-34) have a “tat” and about half of those young men and women have two or more.
With business booming, the tattoo industry has transformed itself from sketchy “scratcher shops” into what could only be described as positively upscale “studios” complete with bright lights, designer handbags and jewelry.
Does that make getting ink surgically injected under your skin (and into your bloodstream) safe?
Everyone seems to have a tattoo these days and you hear very little about any problems with them, so they must be safe… right?
To try and answer that question, Dr. Marie Leger, a dermatologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, and her colleagues:
…randomly chose about 300 tattooed people in New York's Central Park and asked them whether they'd had any problems with their tattoos.
About 10 percent of the people said they'd had some complications. For some, these complications were short-lived, such as bacterial infection right after the tattoo was inked, or temporary swelling and itching.
But of those who had complaints, six in 10 suffered from chronic problems. And although many had suffered from unpleasant itching or swelling for years, few had bothered to get their problems checked by a doctor, the researchers found. (emphasis mine)
Ok, that's a problem!
If tattoo medical complications are mostly unreported, then we have no way of accurately tracking the safety of the procedure.
Looks like only 1 out of 10 have problems though…
Those odds may not seem so bad until you consider that the biggest health complication may not show up for decades.
While tattoo inks have been “approved for such use as printer ink and automobile paint,” (Well, you want your tat color to last as long as your Chevy, don't you?) nevertheless, tattoo inks are not regulated. Nope. Not by the FDA, not legally by anybody.
Tattoos are monitored like the cosmetics industry. The FDA will investigate if there's a complaint. And, apparently, very few people are reporting their problems, at least according to Leger's 300-person poll.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to screen the pigments used in inks before they go on the market, but the agency says it usually does not do so.
While you can hopefully count on the cleanliness of the tattoo establishment itself being monitored by state and local jurisdictions, those inspections are strictly limited to infection and disease transmission risk. Infections caused by getting “inked” are considered to be “rare,” so it would appear that local and state authorities have, for the most part, adequately done their job.
Nevertheless, the quality of tattoo business inspections can vary from area to area.
I used to inspect tattoo parlors for my state. This was a weak program, we did little to really protect health of individuals getting tattoos. I came away convinced tattooing is really a surgery and we shouldn’t let non-medical providers do them.
(source: The Hidden Dangers of Getting Inked)
Forget Infection, It's CANCER I'm Worried About Most, of all the Tattoo Dangers
And no one knows the long term consequences of injecting these ingredients under the skin because LONG TERM TESTING HAS NEVER BEEN DONE.
It has consistently been claimed by the tattoo industry that the inks used are stable and nonreactive.
However, new technology, the Atomic Force Microscope, being used by researchers at the University of Bradford is throwing doubt on that assertion.
Atomic Force Microscope testing has found that previously unseen, atomic-sized nanoparticles from tattoo ink actually remodel collagen and connective tissue. This means that…
Ink particles may be leaving the site of injection and traveling to other parts of the body, potentially lodging in tissues and organs, including the brain.
Research is increasingly showing, however, that there might be health risks involved, especially if your tattoo design contains large areas of black ink… the color most often linked to potential adverse health effects, although all tattoo inks have toxic potential, including:
- Potentially carcinogenic4
- May cause inflammation and DNA damage5
- May contain carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) like benzo(a)pyrene (a Class 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer)…
To date there have been no systemic studies to look at the safety of injecting such inks into the body. (emphasis mine)
Still love the idea of telling your story on your skin? Still think it's worth the risk? If so…
Better get that tat quick!
Recently, the FDA launched new studies to investigate the long-term safety of the inks, including what happens when they break down in the body or interact with light. Research already has shown that tattoo inks can migrate into people’s lymph nodes.
If study after study throwing doubt on the safety of tattoo ink is released, the boom we currently see in the tattoo industry may fade even more quickly than it arose.
(This is Kelly jumping in… Like Joanie, I'm thankful that I never got any tattoos. Probably because I grew up with my Dad having tattoos up and down both his arms from his Army days, and while they were interesting to look at, I never wanted any myself. My hubs, Kent, did get one on his arm when he was in the Marines during the first Gulf War, I think he was in Okinawa then, or maybe the Philippines, but that was back before we questioned the safety of everything like we do now. Yikes, tattoos over there are probably even more sketchy…?)
What about you? Have you been “inked?” Any beloved family members with skin art? What do you think about all this information? Would you re-think this decision now?
This was a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, now a regular writer around here!
Joanie has been in sales & education in the natural foods & products industry since the early 70's, with her most recent six years spent as a vitamin specialist in a health foods store. She has also been the Ventura, California chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation since 2010.
Disclaimer: Neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here for your own research and then consult with a natural-minded doctor or health professional you trust to find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here, and also note that there may be affiliate links in this post.