Tattoo inks found to contain chemicals similar to paint and textiles

September 2, 2022
Tattoo inks found to contain chemicals similar to paint and textiles

Many tattoo artists in the US were reportedly unaware of the composition of the inks they used in their work, according to researchers from Binghamton University, New York. Not only that, manufacturers of these tattoo inks also had not listed down the ingredients contained within – interestingly, many inks were found to contain a chemical dye used in commercial paint and textiles.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified tattoo ink as a cosmetic product, and as such do not need prior approval from the FDA – no regulations require a manufacturer to list the ingredients in tattoo ink, either.

Curious, principal researcher from Binghamton University, John Swierk, and colleagues used techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy to understand what exactly was in tattoo inks. The preliminary phase of their research looked at around 100 tattoo inks.

Swierk said there were surprises with almost every ink studied, “[Around] 23 of 56 different inks analysed to date suggest an azo-containing dye is present.”

Azo dyes are used in a number of commercial products from carpets to textiles, and also in food products. Azo dyes are generally considered safe. However, UV (ultraviolet) light or bacteria can cause the dye pigments to degrade into carcinogenic molecules.

A further analysis also revealed that a significant number of these inks contained nanoparticles smaller than 100 nanometers. Particles this small are much more likely to travel to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes.

“That’s a concerning size range,” added Swierk. “Particles of this size can get through the cell membrane and potentially cause harm.”

To raise awareness, the researchers have set up a website called “What’s In My Ink,” to catalog the contents of many commercially available tattoo inks, to which this latest data will be added following peer review.


Category: Education, Features

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