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Tattoo Inks Found to Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Tattoo Inks Found to Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals

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By    |   Tuesday, 04 October 2016 11:09 AM

A tattoo craze has taken hold around the world, with as many as one in five Americans under 34 years of age opting for skin art, by some estimates. But health experts warn that tattoos can pose significant health risks, with the latest research indicating skin inks contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Dr. Jorgen Serup, a professor of dermatology at Denmark’s Copenhagen University, recently identified carcinogenic chemicals in 13 of 21 tattoo inks popular in Europe and elsewhere.

Eminent oncologist Dr. Ian Olver, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, also notes that research shows some tattoo inks cause cancer in animals — and that some red inks contain mercury, while greens and blues are tainted with cobalt.

“If you’re contemplating tattoos, ask about chemicals in inks,” Olver advises, adding further research on hazards is needed.

Cancer risks aren’t the only concern, experts warn.

A recent German study found a whopping 67 percent of tattooed people suffer health complications — mainly skin infections, but not just around the tattoo. Among the more serious infections tattooing can spread are blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C.

According to Dr. Terry Slevin, a professor at Australia’s Curtin University and research director at Western Australia’s Cancer Council, notes the growing popularity of tattoos is likely to drive up such health problems.

“Gone are the days of tattoos only being seen on bikers and sailors,” Slevin says. “Increasing proportions of the population have increasing proportions of the dermal layer of their skin injected with multi-colored artworks. There’s no sign of demand dropping off.”

Dr. Shontavia Johnson of Drake University in Des Moines Iowa, notes “more than 20 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo.” Tattooing is most common in the 18-34 age group, less so in older Americans.

But many people who opt for tattooing don’t know about the risks the inks can pose when injected into the skin’s dermal layer.

“These substances can be toxic,” says Dr. Desmond Tobin, director of British-based Bradford University’s center for health sciences.

Slevin says hundreds of tattoo inks are in use in Australia and other developed countries.

“It’s around the 500 mark in America,” he tells Newsmax Health. “Most are U.S.-made.”

A recent study found 89 unique chemicals in the tattoo inks on the market.

“Sometimes the same chemicals are marketed under several brand names,” Slevin explains.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate tattoo inks.

“Because of other public health priorities and previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA hasn’t traditionally regulated tattoo inks or pigments used in them,” according to an agency policy statement.

But Slevin contends the FDA should act to protect Americans. He notes “one ink was sold and used for tattooing when the container label said it was not intended for this purpose.”

He adds that laser removal — increasingly popular among individuals who change their minds about tattoos they’ve received — can also pose a unique set or risks.

“Laser removal isn’t necessarily the answer. It breaks up tattoos so chemicals spread into the body and are removed through normal excretion systems,” he says.

“One case I recall involved finding a chemical in a person’s lymph nodes. You don’t know where these chemicals are going to end up. It’s still unclear what effect this may have.”

Slevin doesn’t expect the tattoo trend to change anytime soon. But that it’s critical for people to become aware of the risks and steps be taken to be sure that the inks used are as safe as possible.

“As tattooing becomes increasingly mainstream… those considering getting tattooed [need to be] fully informed of risks. And, if they wish to proceed, we need to ensure they can do so as safely as possible,” he says.

“Stopping use of unsafe ink and related contaminants is a vital first move.”
 

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Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, with as many as one in five Americans under 34 years of age opting for skin art. But health experts warn that tattoos can pose significant health risks, with the latest research indicating skin inks contain cancer-causing chemicals.
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2016-09-04
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 11:09 AM
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