A report published in The Lancet has raised concerns over the long-term safety of tattoo ink. “Almost everybody these days has a tattoo but nobody is talking about the side effects of ink deposits,” said author Dr Andreas Luch of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin.
Currently tattoo inks are classified and regulated as cosmetics, however, according to Luch, cosmetics regulations are designed for topical application only, whereas tattoo inks are injected into living tissue.
“We need to assume that all of these ink ingredients, including preservatives, processing aids or whatever will become systematically available in the body over time,” explained Luch. Studies examining tattoos on the bodies of the deceased has revealed that some 90 percent of tattoo ink has disappeared from the skin, leaving a question mark over where the ink has migrated to. What’s more, a Swiss study on tattoo ink found preservatives banned for the use in cosmetics in 14 percent of samples.
The concern is not restricted to European regulations; in the US tattoo ink falls under the Food and Drugs Administration’s remit, but it is not currently subject to controls.