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Health & Medicine

Experts Warn Tattoo Ink Can Have Health Consequences

— April 3, 2024

Health experts ink ingredients can come with serious risks.

When people think about the health risks associated with getting a tattoo, they likely think first about the potential for an infection. Given how much of the skin can be affected by a single tattoo, the threat of infection is real, and steps need to be taken to mitigate that risk. However, it’s not just an infection while the wound is open that can be concerning, as there are also ingredients within the tattoo ink itself that might give people cause for concern.

When using a material like tattoo ink that is going to be added to the body in a permanent manner, it’s important that people know exactly what is in that ink before they agree to the artwork that is being considered. However, a new study shows that the vast majority of inks don’t actually list everything that is included in their formulation. Across a sample of 54 tattoo inks, more than 80% had ingredients present that were not disclosed by the manufacturer. Those extra ingredients included things like propylene glycol and higher alkanes.

The study authors wrote, “Major, unlisted adulterants include poly(ethylene glycol), propylene glycol, and higher alkanes. Many of the adulterants pose possible allergic or other health risks…Taken together, the results from this study highlight the potential for a significant issue around inaccurate tattoo ink labeling in the United States.”

This is an issue for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the potential for allergic reactions to components that tattoo recipients don’t know are in the ink. If the labeling was accurate and everyone knew exactly what was in the ink, better choices could be made to avoid unwanted outcomes.

Experts Warn Tattoo Ink Can Have Health Consequences
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

One of the components that were commonly present but not disclosed was polyethylene glycol. This is a troubling ingredient because of its known connection to kidney failure. Some of the other unlisted ingredients are known to lead to problems with lung irritation, liver problems, nerve damage, and more. Clearly, this is a serious matter/ and it is worthy of investigation by the relevant authorities.

While regulation over tattoo ink that is used in the United States is still in the early stages, it did get a boost in 2022 when the FDA gained authority in this area. With further study and tighter regulation, the industry may be forced to improve its labeling process and manufacturing processes. With regulations that more closely mirror the seriousness of the situation and the potential risks that can exist, it should be possible to protect people from allergic reactions and other health risks that may not realize they are taking when getting a tattoo.

It seems likely that there will be more and more research and improvement in the years to come with regard to tattoo safety and what is within the inks that are used in the industry. For now, individuals should think carefully about what they choose to do, and where they choose to use it. Getting a tattoo is taken casually by many people, but it’s actually a process that can seriously impact human health when not given the respect that it deserves.


Study Shows Over 80% of Tattoo Inks Contain ‘Ingredients’ Connected to Serious Health Risks

Are Some Metals in Tattoo Inks Harmful to Health? An Analytical Approach

Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions 

Tattoo Ink Can Contain Cancer Causing Chemicals, Experts Warn

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