Tattoo ink is a toxic substance that has links to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as well as cancer, according to new research that claims heavily tattooed bodies lose the ability to fight infections over time.
The study by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France explains that ink used in tattoos includes a mixture of organic and metal-based pigments and preservatives and that because tattoos are a matter of choice, and not medical necessity, these substances and their effect on human health have not been subject to rigorous medical study.
The groundbreaking research from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France explains that while tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, their research suggests that while heavily tattooed bodies may be fashionable, in health terms they are a ticking time bomb.
The researchers say toxic chemicals in tattoo ink migrate around the body, transported by the bloodstream, before forming deposits in lymph nodes, which are located in the neck, armpit and groin. This in turn obstructs an otherwise healthy body from fighting infection – a downward spiral that leads to autoimmune and auto-inflammatory diseases later in life.
Their report, published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, noted ink can contain tiny particles of heavy metals such as nickel, chromium, manganese and cobalt, as well as other toxic impurities.
And one fashionable tattoo color proved far more dangerous than the rest: White.
Titanium dioxide, which is a chemical commonly used to create white ink, is known to increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.
It also causes itching, skin irritation, and delayed healing.
“When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlor where they use sterile needles that haven’t been used previously,” said Hiram Castillo, one of the authors of the study.
“No one checks the chemical composition of the colors, but our study shows that maybe they should.”
The reality is very little is known about the potential impurities contained in the different colors of ink applied to the skin.
Scientists in France and Germany used X-rays fluorescence measures to detect the tiny particles, and they reported strong evidence to show tattoo ink migrates around the body before creating deposits in the neck, armpit and groin.
“We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the colour of the tattoo,” said Bernhard Hesse.
“It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo.
“What we didn’t know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behaviour as the particles at a micro level.
“And that is the problem: we don’t know how nanoparticles react.“
If you’re considering getting a tattoo, it might be worth thinking about whether you want to introduce pigments that include metals into your body all for the sake of superficial fashion.