How toxic is tattoo ink, exactly?

In contemporary society, the actual edgy, rebellious non-conformists are those who have completely refrained from getting involved with body art. With tattoos enjoying increasing popularity among the trend-conscious general public, however, many wonder if tattoo ink injected into your skin is safe.

Common sense might provide the answer.

According to a detailed overview by GreenMedinfo, studies suggest that tattoo ink can be problematic from a health standpoint because of toxic chemicals.

“Although the age of moralizing tattoos as an indictment of character should be long passed, concerns linger over health implications… A recent study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials revealed that chemicals present in tattoo ink induced cytotoxicity (cell death), genotoxicity (DNA mutation), and adaptive stress response pathways.”

Most tattoo ink is industrial grade and apparently intended for printer ink or car paint. Black tattoo ink often contains high polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon content as well as hexachloro-1,3-butadiene (HCBD), Hexamethylenetetramine, and dibenzofuran (DBF), all of which can pose health hazards of varying degrees.

Tattoo ink also contains various toxic components that might induce autoimmunity and mitochondrial dysfunction, the website added. A risk of infection also exists.

“Although sanitation measures are improving and risk of contracting infectious diseases from contaminated tattoo equipment has decreased, the inks themselves may harbor infectious microbes.”

GreenMedinfo recommends safer alternatives such as vegetable-based inks as well as more regulatory oversight of the tattoo business and more transparency by manufacturers of proprietary ink products.

“Further, for those suffering from toxicity as a result of tattoos, natural regimens intended to support biotransformation and elimination may be indicated, and some individuals suffering overt heavy metal toxicity may need to undergo chelation protocols supervised by an environmental medicine physician.”

Earlier this month, Natural News warned of the alleged increased risk of cancer and other conditions from tattoo ink containing titanium dioxide. Pigmented dyes used by most tattoo parlors for colored tattoos contain this controversial chemical, which can travel through the bloodstream and accumulate in the lymph nodes. The body becomes more susceptible to various diseases when the lymph nodes swell. Titanium dioxide, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems safe, is also found in many personal care products. The FDA has not approved any pigments that are injectable into the skin, however.

Several years ago, Natural News cautioned that chemicals and heavy metals in tattoo ink reportedly might lead to birth defects, certain mutations, and be destructive to the immune system. Moreover, body-art lovers have complained of scarring, allergic reactions, and phototoxic reactions. Other complications can occur, depending upon the type of pigment in play.

A 2015 survey suggested that about 30 percent of the U.S. population has at least one tattoo, and tattoos might even be more pervasive now. Plus, professional athletes on your TV screen are often covered with tattoos, which presumably has an influence on the culture, particularly the younger cohort.

Tattoo parlors are regulated at the state or local level. The FDA says that tattoo recipients sometimes become infected by contaminated tattoo inks and develop adverse reactions to the ink used. Reactions can include a rash, high fever, shaking, chills, sweating, and/or scarring.

“While you can get serious infections from unhygienic practices and equipment that isn’t sterile, infections can also result from ink that was contaminated with bacteria or mold. Using non-sterile water to dilute the pigments (ingredients that add color) is a common culprit, although not the only one. There’s no sure-fire way to tell if the ink is safe. An ink can be contaminated even if the container is sealed or the label says the product is sterile.”

If you have buyer’s remorse, the FDA’s “think before you ink” consumer update advises that tattoo removal is a painstaking, not-always-successful process.

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