The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation after new research turned up troubling findings about toxic chemicals in tattoo ink. Recently published studies have found that the inks can contain a host of dodgy substances, including some phthalates, metals, and hydrocarbons that are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. One chemical commonly used to make black tattoo ink called benzo(a)pyrene is known to be a potent carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal tests.

Coloured inks often contain lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, titanium and other heavy metals that could trigger allergies or diseases, scientists say. Some pigments are industrial grade dyes ‘suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint,’ according to an FDA fact sheet. Now the FDA has launched an investigation into the long-term safety of the inks, including what happens when they break down in the body or fade from light exposure.

An estimated 45million people in the U.S., including at least 36 per cent of adults in their late 30s, have at least one tattoo. The FDA has the power to control tattoo inks under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but up to now the agency has not flexed its regulatory muscles.

A spokesman for the agency said: ‘Because the dyes and inks used in tattoos have not been approved by FDA, we do not know the specific composition of what these inks and dyes may contain.

Who would have guessed that injecting chemicals under the skin might be a bad idea? In my youth it was mainly bikers, prisoners and military people who got tats. Now it seems everyone is doing it. Yes, I’m shocked to hear the FDA is, once again, asleep at the switch.




  1. bobbo, one of the few honest sensical pragmatic libertarians around says:

    I drive a car. Never attracted to tats: what if I change my mind? Yes, its all about being open to changing my mind. Amusing and telling how that theme plays across many seemingly unrelated issues?

    also telling: how many LIEberTARDS confuse the libertarian touchstone with being anti-tax and anti-regulation. but they always say they are for anti-fraud regulations, the one’s that aren’t clinically insane that is.

    Libertarian position: let people do what they want: tats, cocaine, abortions but INFORM them and regulate the businesses that provide the service/product.

    Rational.

    Coincidence: Clinically Irrational: Representative Walsh: “a Teaparty Activist.”

    Like anyone who tats himself “Outlaw” he should simply be shot on sight. We don’t need scum around here.

  2. Muddauber says:

    Tatoos are for circus and carnival people, bikers, prisoners, sleezy junkies and military people.

    Injecting chemicals under the skin could cause cancer or other health problems. Who woulda thunk it?

  3. deowll says:

    No tats. My father thought that people who had tats were most likely mentally unstable. I noticed that none of the people who worked were I did had any that showed. I’ve noticed that tats often fail to age well as does skin. One of my bosses made a connection between tats and thieves after being robbed by some people with tats on a work crew they hired.

    I’m not sure why anyone would think that getting a tat wasn’t at least moderately risky on many levels.

  4. Glenn E. says:

    So the FDA threatens to “look” into tattoo safety. Right at the start of the election cycle. What’s this, a call to all red necks to register and vote Republican? Stopping the tattoo nannies, who must be Democrats, right? The FDA is pretty cash strapped, so that it can’t afford to investigate things already on its plate. Never mind adding anything new. So this sounds more like a red herring issue. Again, to spur voter registration.

  5. Glenn E. says:

    So while thousands of people have been put away for smoking, or growing weed. Based on MJ’s supposed harmful effects. Tattoo artists, using completely unregulated inks, have legally plied their trade, with little or no consequences. Probably because the tobacco and pharm industries don’t sell tattoo ink. If they did, then there’d be hell to pay. But whatever doesn’t threaten the profits of big corporations, is Ok, and off the radar.

  6. msbpodcast says:

    In #30, What? said some things that don’t quite make sense so I’m asking for clarification.

    Hawaiians are an exception to what? A wish for upward mobility or to the whole “tattoos are a barrier to upward mobility ethos.”

    Also tattoos would seem to me to be an indication of one’s origins, not an indication of one’s aspirations or of one’s deliberate or accidental elevation.

    I have also seen/known some Japanese women with full back tattoos and with full body suits that were extremely beautiful, colorful, cultural, expressive and made the wearer look simply, stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful.

  7. msbpodcast says:

    In #34 Glenn E. said: So this sounds more like a red herring issue.

    Two points:

    First: The subcutaneous application of cosmetic falls under the “D” portion of the FDA. (It applies more than homeopathic medecine which uses injections of pure water which was shown some active agent.)

    Second: What do you think costs more? Sending a couple of agents out to urban and suburban malls to look at tattoo parlors(*) and a few more to check out the suppliers OR send them out in the countryside to some farms where they are far more likely to discover something unsavory.

    *) Perhaps the Tattoo Parlor Association of America (TPAA) could negotiate a deal with the drug companies to do inoculations.

    You could get steered to a tattoo parlor for a shot of time release Gardasyl and a tramp stamp or a fag flag (if you don’t know … don’t ask.)

  8. bobbo, how do you know what you know and how do you change your mind says:

    Because I find the questions interesting:

    # 36 msbpodcast said, on September 2nd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    In #30, What? said some things that don’t quite make sense so I’m asking for clarification.

    Hawaiians are an exception to what? /// The main European Culture of being tat free. Hawaiian roots are not Western. I would give them a pass on the only crazies and mentally impaired gets tats meme when it comes to Hawaiians and just pity them for being Hawaiian.

    A wish for upward mobility or to the whole “tattoos are a barrier to upward mobility ethos.” /// We are all bent by our childhood/culture/sub-culture we are raised in. I grew up in the suburbs and note how “removed” I was from the business mentality. I would be a different person had I grown up on the gritty streets of the Urban scene. Same for the Hawaiians. Yes, riding the waves and getting tats is a barrier to upward mobility “like” growing up in the homogeneous unchallenging suburbs.

    Also tattoos would seem to me to be an indication of one’s origins, not an indication of one’s aspirations or of one’s deliberate or accidental elevation. /// To the tatted one’s, they mean whatever they mean to them. To the observers, they mean whatever they mean to them. Life is like that. We all make our own reality. Some narrow, some wide. We make our choices on many levels, all the time. How conscious are you when making these choices??

    I have also seen/known some Japanese women with full back tattoos and with full body suits that were extremely beautiful, colorful, cultural, expressive and made the wearer look simply, stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful. /// Yes, I’ve seen many tatted Japanese Women I would like to mount on my wall.

    Tramp Stamp: I’m against them as that is exactly what they are. Nothing wrong with a little tear drop here or there. But tatting the last words of Marilyn Monroe makes about as much sanity as wearing a vile of blood around your neck. How many crazy ass scary stupid bitch things can you do in a row before the next few good things you do are totally suspect as well as who you do those things with?

    What ya gonna do? Totally hot woman with too many tats, or Miss Reasonable and Sane Whitebread with no tats? Can’t have both although that simple choice and consequence will probably confuse you for a few years or more.

    Run with Confidence my friends, Run with Confidence.

  9. Dallas says:

    I have two small but awesome tattoos. Like to get one more.

    Republicans should be more concerned with cholesterol, diabetes, cancer of the anus than tattoo ink.

  10. bobbo, how do you know what you know and how do you change your mind says:

    #39–Big D==awesome tats huh? Even if I were “off topic” much less on topic and had awesome tats I’d say what they were.

    What are yours and what do you want to get?

    As a liberal, I am concerned with all those issues. A sane society does not commerce in poison. As a libertarian, I am concerned with all those issues: even poison should be made available WITH the property warnings, informed consent.

    As a rational human being, I would consider products with side effects and weigh the balance, and avoid straight up poison like it was poison.

    Labeling: surely metal vs non-metal. Safe vs Unknown?

    FREEEEEEEDOM—other people doing what you would choose not to do. Judgment: choosing what freedoms you want to associate with. Maturity: accepting the consequences of all your choices.

    yea, verily.

  11. sargasso_c says:

    Polynesian tattooing, in cultural rite use time proven dies derived from plants. Nothing is man made, even the needles.

  12. Zealous says:

    Alright, we get it.
    Tattoos are for stupid people.
    Complaining on the internet is for smart people..

    =)

  13. Dallas says:

    #40 B – got a small lightning bolt on my back at 18 for rebellious reasons. In later years got a small sun on my shoulder during a conference in San Fran to signify my love of the outdoors. Undecided on a third one.

    I find tattoos very sexy on guys and girls. Also find light face piercing sexy as well. Love to see self expression and the beauty of individuality.

  14. Faxon says:

    Is somebody wants to mutilate their body, let them. My friend got hepatitis and died after an extensive tattoo was applied to his back.

    When I see a girl with a tattoo, I imagine what it will look like forty years from now, on a wrinkly, dried up old pruny body.

    No matter how colorful and pretty tattoos are at first, the all turn into a bruised blue ugly color in time. Black people look especially bad with a tattoo.

    I hope all you tattoed people like how you look in twenty or thirty years.

    Funniest guy I ever saw had about ten solid blue discs about one to two and a half inches in diameter tattoed on his face. He looked like a fucking clown joke.

  15. Faxon says:

    Next rebel trend, after tongue piercings and earlobe enlargement and stupid words or pictures (Tweety Bird?… Really?)on your epidermis….. amputations and other pure mutilations.
    How about just chopping off something small at first to be cool?
    Come on… Lady GOO GOO will do it. She’s so hip.
    The really cool people will be chopping off all sorts of things in short order. Maybe as performance art, too.

  16. bobbo, how do you know what you know and how do you change your mind says:

    #43–Big D==both tats sound good to me. I’ll admit I’m attracted to having a row of barbed wire around my massive impressive right arm bicep. I’m going to get that tat right after I get the massive impressive bicep. Yep, thats what I’m gonna do.

    Unrelated and unaddressed above, I recall hearing 2-3 jokes about the placement of various tats: what they look like to begin with and what they look like later–after years or after excitement and embiggenment. Couple of them were funny, but I just can’t recall them now.

  17. Lou Minatti says:

    Attention fat people: Tats don’t make you look cool or sexy. Tats just make you look like a fat, lazy lardass with a shit-ugly inkstain that you will be stuck with until you die. Seriously. This is the truth.

  18. Dallas says:

    #46 agree. I imagine if you place a tattoo in an area prone to sagging, stretching or sun burning it will look like shit later.

    If the fat, Rainforest Cafe tattoo guy above stays fat and out of the sun, he’ll be fine but likely die of something other than ink.

  19. Faxon says:

    The words “awesome” and “tats” just fall together naturally, don’t they?
    Throw in the word “douchebag” and you have the complete set.

    Awesome yogurt.
    Awesome weather.
    Awesome decision.
    Awesome disease.
    Awesome vocabulary.

  20. Dallas says:

    #49 pretty awesome post there.

  21. bobbo, some people just need extra patience says:

    #49–FactsOn/FactsOff==whats the matter Bunky? Rash acting up again?? Ha, ha. Poor old Faxon, cranky when he doesn’t get his bottle==of Jack Daniels.

    but to your point: I’ve never seen and can’t contemplate what an awesome douchebag would be. Might that be YOU when traffic is delaying you getting to a shoot? Certainly, I can’t even imagine you NOT being a douchebag in such circumstances, but “awesome” still eludes me.

    Keep up the good work Douch….I mean FactsOn. You’ll find the sweet spot eventually. I hear dusting with flour can help in that effort.

    I’ve been called a curmudgeon myself but you take it to Alfie Levels. Hey—Alfie Level One Douchebag. Thats awesome.

    ((I’ll bet you have at least one tat: Mickey Mouse looking like an old camera? Come on FactsOn===tell the truth.))

    Ha, ha.

  22. Angel H. Wong says:

    #43 Dallas,

    *cough* ever thought of getting a pair of bear paws tattooed *cough* on your buttcheeks?

  23. Dallas says:

    #53 AW, I like where you’re going with that but sadly, no. I was thinking something less awesome!

  24. Kristy says:

    Some of you people are so judgmental! WHO Cares!! Some people have tattoos, some people smoke, some people drink, They all do something to your body. Obviously, you have nothing better to do then run everyone else down for having a tattoo. If you at McDonald’s you could get cancer. Stop judging, be happy your alive!!

  25. john says:

    Random tattoos are stupid and meaningless leave the tatoos for the correst purpose! All these jack asses tattoing flowers and fish and meaningless shit, leave the tattoos for the hell bound mutherfuckers like me that mark our bodies to show the number of trash that we have murdered, all you faggot that judge for hating them and all you faggots that get bullshit ink deserve a bat across the mouth fuck you all and ill see you in hell !

  26. wypa says:

    interesting information, it may not know this many people, including myself who have tattoos. I’ll go check out the tattoo on my body whether or not to endanger tuh. And will also provide this information to friends.

  27. Matching Tattoos says:

    I already know the effects on having tattoos can cause you harm and to your body. But it is our tradition that having a tattoo is beautiful and I’m not aware of anything that will happen in the future.

  28. fixthestuff says:

    Great that the FDA, not usually a very functional group, is getting involved. I think everyone who wants a tattoo has a right to get it without being put in danger. They’re going for art or self-expression, or to fit in with buddies because they’ve got poor self esteem or simply aren’t happy with how they look naturally, but that doesn’t mean anyone should just be able to inject car paint into your skin. Of course, if I got a tattoo, I’d make it a point to ask the guy/girl if the paint had toxic crap in it. And they’d lie, or not know, and I’d get it somewhere else, but it’d be nice to know it was safe.


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