MsRad

from SFgate.com "Tattoo health risks - research raises concerns"

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the original article can be found here.

Although sleazy "scratcher shops" with unskilled artists and dubious safety records are largely a thing of the past, scientists are growing concerned about what's going into tattooed skin, not just how it got there.

New research has turned up troubling findings about toxic chemicals in tattoo inks, including carcinogens and hormone disruptors.

Inks, which are injected into the skin with small needles, have caused allergic rashes, chronic skin reactions, infection and inflammation from sun exposure, said Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. A study published in July suggested that phthalates and other chemicals may be responsible for some of those problems.

That raises questions about more serious, long-term risks such as skin cancer, scientists say.

One of the chemicals found in black tattoo inks, benzo(a)pyrene, is a potent carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal tests. Dermatologists have published reports in medical journals on rare, perhaps coincidental cases where malignant melanomas are found in tattoos.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration launched new studies to investigate the long-term safety of the inks, including what happens when they break down in the body or interact with light. Research already has shown that tattoo inks migrate into people's lymph nodes.

For now, it's unclear what, if any, long-term health risks are posed by tattoo inks.

More people inked

An estimated 45 million people in the United States, including 36 percent of adults in their late 20s, have at least one tattoo, according to estimates by the FDA and a Harris Interactive Poll.

Most customers are concerned with how the tattoo will look years down the road.

"People usually don't come in worried about health concerns," said Mario Delgado, owner of Moth and Dagger Tattoo Studio in San Francisco. "People are more concerned about getting a good tattoo."

In July, German scientists reported that the chemical dibutyl phthalate, a common plasticizer, is found in black tattoo inks. In the study of 14 commercially available inks, they found low levels of the chemical in all of them and determined the substance could be the reason for adverse skin reactions.

With phthalates, which can mimic estrogen or disrupt testosterone, potential effects on fetuses and infants are the major concern. In infant boys, prenatal exposure to dibutyl phthalate has been linked to feminization of the reproductive tract.

But phthalates in tattoo inks may not carry the same risk.

"While this is a potential source of high exposure, it might not last very long and may not present a risk to health," said Joseph Braun, an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard University.

Metals found as well

Heavy metals such as lead, which can harm the reproductive and nervous systems, also were found in a study of 17 different black inks from five manufacturers.

Colored 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 colors that are "suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint," according to an FDA fact sheet.

Black tattoo inks, which are usually made of soot, contain products of combustion called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to a 2010 study by the German scientists.

The PAHs in the inks include benzo(a)pyrene, which was identified in an Environmental Protection Agency toxicity report as "among the most potent and well-documented skin carcinogens." It is so potent that it is routinely used in animal tests to grow tumors. It also has been linked to skin cancer in shale oil workers.

"Tattooing with black inks entails an injection of substantial amounts of phenol and PAHs into skin," wrote the German scientists. They said the PAHs could "stay lifelong in skin" and "may affect skin integrity," which could lead to skin aging and cancer.

Scientists are debating the possible tattoo-cancer link, based so far on a handful of malignant melanomas found in tattoos and reported in medical literature.

"Even though cases of malignancies such as melanoma, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and keratoacanthomas have been reported for the past 40 years, it remains unclear what role tattoos play in their pathogenesis," wrote scientists from France's University of Montpellier in a 2008 study.

FDA's role

The FDA has the power to regulate tattoo inks and any added colorings. But the agency has never flexed its regulatory power, citing lack of evidence of safety concerns and other priorities.

In 2003 and 2004, the FDA received its largest cluster of complaints, more than 150, from people on the giving and receiving end of tattoos. Since then, the FDA has begun more research on tattoo inks.

One major question investigated by the FDA is where does the ink go when the tattoo fades?

Preliminary results show that a common pigment in yellow tattoo inks, Pigment Yellow 74, may be broken down by the body's enzymes, according to the FDA. Sunlight also breaks it down into colorless components of unknown toxicity. Also, when skin cells containing ink are killed by sunlight or laser light, the ink breakdown products could spread throughout the body.

Previous studies have shown tattoo inks move into the lymph nodes, but whether that is a health risk is not known, according to a 2009 FDA consumer update. Lymph nodes are part of the body's system for filtering out disease-causing organisms.

Because of the chemicals involved, California's Proposition 65 requires all tattoo shops to warn customers of exposure to carcinogens. The warning is included in the release forms that people must sign before getting tattooed in California.

Environmental Health News is a foundation-funded environmental news service. EHN publishes its own journalism and provides daily access to worldwide environmental news. For more on this story and others, go to Environmental Health News: Front Page.

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

i couldn't find the thread where the unknown ingredients in pigments/inks and their potential risks were touched upon (i remember Dari expressing her curiosity), so if this seems better suited to be added there, please move it.

i haven't read the whole article as i'm heading out the door, but my initial reaction is "oh nooo....." not because i'm worried about getting cancer (because tattooing is the least of my cancer concerns compared to my genetic disposition and family track record for it), but because of the fear and regulation aspect.

anyways, thought i'd share it anyways.

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So it says tattooing can cause skin cancer. Anyone know or ever heard of any heavily tattooed person getting skin cancer? I certainly don't.

I also don't know anyone who's ever caught a disease from tattooing. I can count on one hand the number of people who've gotten staph from a tattoo and most of those people claim it was their own fault due to improper aftercare. I've never had a noticeable problem or side effect from any of my tattoos.

I wonder what specific inks these scientists looked at? Not everyone used the same components when making ink.

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Sounds like typical fear mongering to me. Check out the sentence in bold below, buried way beneath the fold, of course:

With phthalates, which can mimic estrogen or disrupt testosterone, potential effects on fetuses and infants are the major concern. In infant boys, prenatal exposure to dibutyl phthalate has been linked to feminization of the reproductive tract.

But phthalates in tattoo inks may not carry the same risk.

Just thought we'd mention that! But ya know, who wants to read an article titled, "TATTOOING IS SAFE, STUDY SAYS"?

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I am not concerned about tattooing causing skin cancer. But, to be frank, I am curious about tattooing hiding skin cancer that is already there or arises after being tattooed, correlation is not causation, for anyone thinking I am saying tattooing causes skin cancer, I'm not.

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Doctors have been hatin on tattoos for a hundred yrs. if you dig you'll find gobs of old articles on these fear tactics. I think its good for you to eat bacteria and filth.but what do I know , Im not an MD. "If it doesn't kill ya, It'll make ya stronger"

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With phthalates, which can mimic estrogen or disrupt testosterone, potential effects on fetuses and infants are the major concern. In infant boys, prenatal exposure to dibutyl phthalate has been linked to feminization of the reproductive tract.

Moral of the story? Dont get tattooed if you're an infant boy.

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When a heavily tattooed person gets a disease, it's funny how some would assume tattoos are the cause. Lifestyle and Genetics probably play a lot bigger role in your general health than whether you are tattooed. For example a bunch of heroin addicts that are heavily tattooed get hepatitis so clearly it must be the tattoos that gave it to them?

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its because we're bad people!!!!!

.....and......."in 2003 and 2004, the FDA received its largest cluster of complaints, more than 150, from people on the giving and receiving end of tattoos."

so only 75 complaints in a year for the MILLIONS of americans that have tattoos. yeah, shut the industry down. fucking retards.

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I am not concerned about tattooing causing skin cancer. But, to be frank, I am curious about tattooing hiding skin cancer that is already there or arises after being tattooed, correlation is not causation, for anyone thinking I am saying tattooing causes skin cancer, I'm not.

my current doctor, who is surprisingly very tattoo friendly, also shares this concern. she just tells me to watch for rapidly growing dark spots and make sure my moles stay the same shape and size.

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my current doctor, who is surprisingly very tattoo friendly, also shares this concern. she just tells me to watch for rapidly growing dark spots and make sure my moles stay the same shape and size.[/i was told 29 yrs ago to tattoo around moles , so I try to, never seen any proof of it.

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its funny that this topic came up... a few months back i ran into someone who said they new someone who got cancer from thier foot tattoo. he then tried to school me on the potential dangers of what im doing and that i should look it up on line for the facts. guess who almost got punched in the face?

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I was told 29 yrs ago to tattoo around moles , so I try to, never seen any proof of it.

yeah the mole bit was more of general advice. i don't have any tattoos where my moles are, but i do have a few that cover up freckles, so i just make sure i keep my eyes on them, and that they don't start growing uncontrollably. most of them are about the size of a pin head.

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Well for us that want to keep our tattoos looking good and not burning them in the sun, skin cancer should be pretty low on our risk threat. Although it does involve genetics, the sun causes the most damage. Pretty sure most of us don't have to worry about that with sun block and staying out of the sun and all. Hell I might see 20 minutes of sun a day, just enough for my vitamin D, but nothing more.

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I grew up on a cattle farm and orange grove. I worked with chemicals all the time; while you'd wear a mask, I'm sure some of the pesticides and herbicides I used absorbed into my skin. I was once sprayed with Malathion poison while tending my grove- airplane flew over me and sprayed for fruit flies and I got soaked in it.

Here in Philly, my drinking water tastes funny. I breath in second hand smoke, carbon monoxide emissions, etc.

Tattoos may cause me cancer, but so will being alive.

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