Tattoo Ink Lowdown
Today Tattooing is mainstream. Just about everyone has a tattoo and the percentage of skin coverage and the age at first tattoo is decreasing. I've noticed more and more tattoos on younger people and more tattoos than ever taking up a larger percentage of the skin. Since I'm all about the healthy I thought I would do a little digging into what exactly goes into the under the skin art form. I was really shocked at what I found. The ink in tattoos is industrial strength based pigments used primarily in automotive and ink for printers. These pigments are made of heavy metals as listed in wikipedia: "Heavy metals used for colors include mercury (red); lead (yellow, green, white); cadmium (red, orange, yellow); nickel (black); zinc (yellow, white); chromium (green); cobalt (blue); aluminium (green, violet); titanium (white); copper (blue, green); iron (brown, red, black); and barium (white). Metal oxides used include ferrocyanide and ferricyanide (yellow, red, green, blue). Organic chemicals used include azo-chemicals (orange, brown, yellow, green, violet) and naptha-derived chemicals (red). Carbon(soot or ash) is also used for black. Other elements used as pigments include antimony, arsenic, beryllium, calcium, lithium, selenium, and sulphur.
Tattoo ink manufacturers typically blend the heavy metal pigments and/or use lightening agents (such as lead or titanium) to reduce production costs."
The pigment then is suspended into a carrier (like a carrier oil for your essential oil) this can be alcohols, glycerine, or glycols. Some tattoo artists blend their own but they can be purchased already blended. The FDA doesn't seem concerned about this but then again laws governing skincare haven't changed in about 80 years. In the US we allow more than 1100 chemicals now banned in Europe and other developed countries.
But what does this all mean? We actually don't know. Few serious health consequences are reported from receiving tattoos. In fact during the process of receiving them endorphins are released. During one second about 100 micro punctures are made by the needle delivering the color. Advocates of the body art form say they feel a boost of energy and they feel their immune system is boosted. There isn't much research to support this, or in fact research at all in the effects of tattoos on the body long term. Although there are studies about where the ink goes into the body after the first two weeks. A study on mice found the tattoo ink deposited in the lymph nodes and in the liver. They tested only black ink and were unsure if in future studies they would be able to detect the other metals like golds, etc, due to the nature of the pigment. What this means for you is that detecting cancers of the lymph glands, or metastasized cancers can be tricker. The ink mimics metastasized cancers. The other health concern to be aware of is MRI's. The metals in the ink can make MRI's uncomfortable or disrupt the images depending on the amount of ink, and levels of metals.
So to Ink or not to Ink. Well that certainly is personal. For your health it's clear you may want to limit exposure to industrial inks, glycols, etc. If there is a potential of toxicity we just don't know. If you feel compelled to express yourself through body art perhaps limit the amount of ink and stick to carbon black. Some of the research also suggested limiting the number of sessions. Since the load on the assimilation seems to be about two weeks. So if you are going every month that is a whole lotta ink getting into the blood stream and being deposited. If you decide you need a tattoo here is a website with some great questions to go armed with and some colors that are less toxic: Nature Savvy. Also, make sure to request pigment without Azo a toxic compound found in older inks.
I can't wait until someone decides tattooing is mainstream...because it is...and decides to do more scientific research. The main concern really is the inks are changing and long term studies take decades to complete. I would love to hear your experience and any studies you have come across about tattoos.