The FDA has released a statement regarding newly discovered dangers associated with the inks used in tattooing. In addition to the previously known concerns of unsafe practices and the spread of blood-borne diseases, there is now the worry of contaminated inks and diluents to consider.
From 2004 to 2016, the FDA received almost 400 reports of adverse reactions to tattoos related to contaminated inks and allergic reactions. “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,” said Dr. Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.
The most common observed cause of the ink contamination has been the use of non-sterile water to dilute the inks, although it is not the only culprit. These adverse reactions have ranged from a minor rash or fever to the more advanced shaking, chills and formation of scar tissue.
If you’re experiencing an adverse reaction, the FDA recommends you contact a health care professional immediately as well as the artist that administered the tattoo, to get the “brand, color, and any lot or batch number of the ink or diluent to help determine the source of the problem and how to treat it.” The FDA also asks that any contaminated ink or diluent be reported to the FDA, for further study into the issue.
“Treating such infections might require a variety of antibiotics—possibly for month—-or even hospitalization and/or surgery,” Katz said, also noting that the reaction may be difficult to treat, given the permanent nature of tattoos.
With the rise in popularity of tattoos as of late—a 2015 Harris Poll showed that about 3 out of every 10 people have one and about half of all Millenials have one—these new findings are particularly worrisome.
These added concerns, as well as the many questions regarding longterm effects of tattoo inks and the tattoo removal process, support the FDA’s statement to “Think Before You Ink.”
If you’re getting a tattoo, the FDA recommends making sure the tattoo parlor and artist observe both state and local laws regarding tattooing, which can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures webpage.
Paula R. Lively, CC-BY
Emma Korstanje is a freelance journalist based out of Athens, GA.