Tattoo Ink Cancer Link ‘Really Concerning’, Experts Warn

Tattoo Ink Cancer: Inks can contain 'toxic cancer-causing chemicals', scientists at the State University of New York have found.
Credit: Alamy

Tattoo ink may contain ‘toxic cancer-causing chemicals’, an expert in the field has warned.

State University of New York scientists have found that almost half of a 56-sample of tattoo inks they studied contained azo-compounds, which degenerate under UV light into cancer-causing chemicals.

The leader of the study, Dr John Swierk, told “We don’t necessarily know what the pigments break down into and so that’s the real concern.

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“It’s possible that you might have pigments that by themselves are safe, but that photodecompose into something of concern.”

Many of the inks studied also had particles below 100nm, meaning they could actually get into a cell’s makeup and cause cancerous mutations.

In Europe, blue and green pigments have been banned due to concerns over their cancerous nature.

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However, in America, research suggests the tattoo industry remains largely unmonitored despite around three in every 10 Americans having one.

Speaking at a press conference on particles below 100nm, Swierk added: “When you get down to that size regime you start to have concerns about nanoparticles penetrating cells, getting into the nucleus of cells, and doing damage and causing problems like cancer that way.”

He continued: “Big companies manufacture pigments for everything, such as paint and textiles. These same pigments are used in tattoo inks.”

“We have the same concerns [of cancer risks] about laser tattoo removal since we don’t understand how the laser is transforming the pigments.”

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There was specific concern over two pigments in particular, blue 15:3 and green 7, which may have caused cancer in 2020 according to some scientists.

The EU banned their use in tattoos in January.

Some authorities, however, including in Germany, said banning them was ‘too far’, asking for more evidence to prove their toxicity.

Tests conducted in the country showed both pigments had a ‘low level’ of toxicity.

The colours remain useable in the USA, with no signs of any move to ban them.

American health authorities warn that getting a tattoo does pose other risks to people as the skin is pierced, opening up risk of bacterial or blood infection.

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