International study finds many tattoo inks fail industry standards

French tattoo artist Corinne Dubosque tattoos the arm of a 18 years old teenager called Timothee at her Atelier Paradise Tattoo in Plessis Trevise in Paris. (AFP/Marie Giffard)

A new international study, featuring Western University researchers, is examining an increasing number of side effects from tattoos.

This includes numerous known allergens in tattoo inks, including metallic substances and organic pigments.

Chemistry professor at Western, Yolanda Hedberg, led a study on tattoo inks in Sweden, along with other scientists.

They analyzed 73 tattoo ink samples collected from suppliers and online retailers and found most fail to meet industry standards.

Tattoos can result in serious allergic reactions along with severe and chronic eczema.

European ink safety standards far exceed those in North America.

“Nearly everyone in the world can order just about any tattoo ink they wish online,” said Hedberg. “Most of these inks come from the United States and there is very little legislation governing their production.”

The study also highlighted concerns surrounding the chemistry composition of tattoo inks.

Traces of potentially harmful metals nickel and chromium were present in all samples. Other impurities like arsenic, mercury and lead were also present in some samples.

“This study suggests that tattoo inks should be better controlled, and consumers should be more careful,” said Hedberg. “Least impurities have been found in black and white colors, while the most problematic substances were found in red inks. The differences between different brands were remarkable.”

In Canada, roughly 38 per cent of the adult population has at least one tattoo.

The entire study can be found here.