Today, tattooing has become very popular among people all over the world. Tattooists, with the help of tiny needles, place tattoo ink inside the skin surface and introduce a large number of different ingredients. These ingredients can include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and primary aromatic amines (PAAs).
Tattoo ink has been seen to be absorbed through the lymphatic system, in one 22 year old woman that had been diagnosed with a melanoma, doctors found out that the black appearing of her lymph node was due to the ink of the tattoo, not secondary to a metastatic disease.
The European Union has started to prohibit use of certain pigments in tattoo inks due to safety concerns. In the United States, tattoo inks are subject to regulation by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, which generally does not investigate commercial inks unless it receives complaints about specific safety issues, such as contamination. The FDA has not specifically approved any pigments for cosmetic tattoos.
There are also some risks associated with tattoos that people may or may not be aware of:
- Allergy to different components of the tattoo ink like paraphenylene diamine, chrome, quinacridone and cobalt. Not only local cutaneous allergies but also severe reactions like anaphylactic reactions which can be life threatening.
- They can be related to lesions after the tattoo like lupus like cutaneous lesions, psoriasis, lichen, etc.
- They can produce oxidative stress and generate an immune response triggering autoimmune diseases.
- If not using sterile techniques, the equipment can transmit bacteria, viral and fungal infections.
- In some cases cutaneous sarcoidosis and even systemic sarcoidosis have been found.
- Can lead to immune dysfunction if ink products enter the lymphatic system and spread around your body, especially an issue with lymphatic drainage issues.
Composition of Tattoo Ink:
According to ink color:
- Mercury for red
- Lead for yellow, green or white
- Cadmium for red, orange or yellow
- Nickel for black
- Zinc for yellow or white
- Chromium for green
- Cobalt for blue
- Aluminum for green or violet
- Titanium for white
- Copper for blue or green
- Iron for brown, red or black
- Barium for white
- Carbon black for black
To reduce production costs, some tattoo ink manufacturers will blend heavy metal pigments with lightening agents, like lead or titanium. Pigments can also be made from other elements, including calcium, antimony, beryllium, sulfur or arsenic.
Although many of the toxic substances may be absent from organic inks, they can still contain heavy metals, like titanium oxide.
Some “glow” tattoos use phosphorus as well.
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