Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Healthy Ink

August 11th, 2009 by

A few weeks back, I blogged about Switzerland’s rules and regulations on tattoo products such as ink.  I had surmised that the Swiss were leading the pack in this sort of cautionary investigation and that over in North America we hadn’t even really begun to realize that there could potentially be problems with the ink we use for tattoos.

Well, according to a recent article that I read online, not only are there zero regulations in place in the United States for tattoo related products such as ink and its ingredients, but until now with the growing mainstream popularity of tattoos, it’s never even really been considered.

“There is really no regulation,” said Charles Zwerling, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the American Academy of Micropigmentation, a nonprofit group that certifies permanent makeup professionals. “The FDA doesn’t do anything. If you are concerned about public safety, we need rules and guidelines.”

Now, for the first time, the FDA is beginning to do just that.  Scientists have begun studies on the chemical composition of tattoo inks as well as permanent make up inks.  The demand for these sorts of tests has grown over the past few years, as many tattooed people have complained of rashes, blistering and swelling in the areas in which they are tattooed.

Not to suggest that tattooing isn’t a safe practice, of course, but I personally find it astounding that this has never been considered as within the realm of public interest before now.  For example, the American Academy of Micropigmentation has already identified more than 50 pigments found in inks, which are actually:

“…industrial strength colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.”

Not only that, but these pigments have never been approved for injection into human skin.

“Some of these inks have caused allergic reactions, including itchy and inflamed skin. In the case of a 2005 recall of 52,114 containers of pigments made by a Texas company, more than 150 cases of swelling, cracking, peeling, blistering, scarring and chronically inflamed tissue were reported to the FDA.”

Man.  That’s kind of scary.  Of course, as with all things related to health issues, perspective is important.  These studies certainly don’t represent the ink used in every tattoo shop that you see.  Some inks, like those provided by American company Huck Spaulding Enterprises, have been tested in Germany before making their way to American shops.  I also think it’s safe to say that the more reputable a tattoo shop, the more reputable the gear used will be.

Still, it is important to have serious tests done to ensure that body art lovers everywhere can have access to the tattoo work they desire and not have to give the quality of the ink used even the slightest thought.  The FDA however, says it will take several years for them to complete their studies.  Oh well, at least it’s being done for the first time ever.  Better late than never.

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