A new study from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has shown that there may be some potential health risks—ranging from allergic reactions to cancer—associated with tattoo ink.
"Many reports show significant concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing," the study reads. "“The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.”
Unlike so many other things that you place into your body (food, medicine, etc.) tattoo ink goes, for the most part, unregulated by the government. In the United States tattoo ink is subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it is considered a very low priority, thus most ink goes onto the market without ever being inspected.
Last year a study by NYU Langone Medical Center conducted a survey of tattooed people and found that around 6% of tattooed people reported ongoing skin irritation or itching years after getting inked. The most intriguing part of this study was that red ink seemed to cause far more irritation than any other color pigment. This study is part of what prompted the ECHA to look further into what exactly is in tattoo ink.
As the ECHA does more research they are planning on releasing a more detailed report an agency spokesman told The Independent. "If it is found that a restriction is needed, a formal proposal to restrict the substances will be submitted within one year to initiate the process," the spokesman said.
Tighter regulation of tattoo ink would likely be embraced by the industry as a whole. Reputable tattoo artists understand the necessary role that government regulation plays on keeping everyone safe, both the artists and the clients benefit from a well regulated industry. We'll keep an eye on this situation to see what develops.