The American Tattoo culture has seen many changes throughout time, what started thousands of years ago among tribal leaders from foreign lands, migrated throughout history to the United States into pop culture. Today, nearly one in four Americans adorn a tattoo.

Some say this artistic body art actually adopted its trend with Sailors after the American Revolution, as these men of the sea adorned these distinguishing marks on their bodies as a means of identification in case they were lost to foreign seas⏤later in time, tattoos found their way into the culture of soldiers, heavy metal rockers, bikers, and gang members.

Tattoos were always in style for various cultural groups in the 1960’s and 1970’s but hit the mainstream, growing very popular, in the 2000’s and yet most people don’t give a second thought to the toxic metals from their cherished work of body art and self expression, wearing it like pieces of body jewelry.

The art and the business of tattooing is as old as right of passage and sociocultural boundaries, yet the danger comes through the lack of regulatory oversight, insuring inks are not contaminated with dangerous chemical byproducts.

Scientists warn of a controversial chemical known as titanium dioxide which is a pigmented dye used by most tattoo parlors and is alleged to increase risk of cancer.

These toxic chemicals found in tattoos also link to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and contain toxic impurities and heavy metals such as chromium, manganese, nickel, and cobalt, all of which are never meant to be injected into the skin.

Once these toxic microscopic particles travel through the blood stream and immune system, than accumulating in the lymph nodes, eventually blocking them, debilitating the body’s ability to fight off infection.

Tattoo inks contain various heavy metals. Red tattoo inks often contain mercury, and tattoos pierce the skin leaving the ink permanently embedded.

Tattoo parlors are regulated by the state and city, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers to release their ink’s ingredients, doing so could supposedly give away trade secrets, with that being said, these tattoo inks contain various chemicals.

Among these chemicals are known to be mutagenic, causing mutations and capable of causing birth defects, allergic reactions, cancer and other biochemical reactions in the body. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printer ink or automobile paint.

Approximately 45 million Americans have been inked, and one third of those did so because they believe it makes them look and feel sexy. With 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 have tattoos and 40 percent of those who range in age between 26 to 40 years old.

The FDA’s website warns about tattoo ink possibly causing infections, allergic reactions, keloids (formation of a scar) granulomas (inflammation) and potential complications while receiving MRIs. Here is a Fact Sheet from the FDA.

The carrier solution used in tattoo inks contains harmful substances such as detergents, antifreeze, methanol, denatured alcohols, formaldehyde and toxic aldehydes.

What’s more, the review found eight cases of malignant melanoma on the site of the tattoo. “Tattoo inks may contain carcinogens, but it’s unclear whether the reported cases of skin cancer are associated with tattoos or occurred coincidentally.” says Dr. Baumler, whose study noted that this number is few in comparison to the many people who have tattoos. (In fact, 24% of the population is inked.)

An alarming research study recently published by Dr. Bob Haley and Dr. Paul Fischer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas uncovered that the “innocent” commercial tattoo may be the number one distributor of hepatitis C.

The study was published in the journal Medicine (Haley RW, Fischer RP, Commercial tattooing as a potentially source of hepatitis C infection, Medicine, March 2000;80; 134-151).

Dr. Haley, a preventative medicine specialist and a former Center for Disease Control (CDC) infection control official, is exceptionally knowledgeable to prepare the study. Dr. Haley concludes,

“We found that commercially acquired tattoos accounted for more than twice as many hepatitis C infections as injection drug use. This means it many have been the largest single contributor to the nationwide epidemic of this form of hepatitis.”

Tattooing is not for everyone, and it is a unique mode of self expression for those who believe in it, most people never entertain a second thought to the dangers that can occur, if you’re new to the tattooing ideas of penetrating the barrier of your skin, do your homework on the tattoo salons to insure they are clean and safe to prevent against the risk of infections.

For Further Insight:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-11721-z
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18617744
https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(15)60215-X.pdf