A friend called me very distressed. Her doctor had sent her for a MRI because of a neck injury. When she arrived at the hospital they asked her if she had any tattoos and she said yes. They then refused to give her the test ~ they told her that there might be metals in the tattoo ink that could adversely interact with the magnets in the machine. I really hadn’t thought much about the subject but I decided to do some research for her ~ what I discovered was shocking. This is not a value judgment about tattoos – but we must be informed before we put things in our bodies.
Teens and young adults around the world are injecting dangerous chemicals under their skin in the name of art and self-expression ~ 36% of Americans aged 25-29 had at least one body tattoo by 2003. Meanwhile middle-aged Americans are trying every health protocol to remove toxic metals from their body that are believed to cause autoimmune and heart disease.
In the European Commission’s report on the health risks of tattooing, they note that “close to 40% of organic colorants used in permanent tattoos in Europe are not even approved for use on the skin as a cosmetic ingredient and just under 20% of the colorants studied contained a carcinogenic aromatic amine. Many of the chemicals found were originally intended for use in writing and printer inks, as well as automobile paints.” These inks are injected deep enough into the skin that often tattoos will not even be destroyed by severe burns.
In America, the FDA regulates some of the ingredients in cosmetics worn on the skin, and vitamins, drugs and food additives ingested into the body, but it does not regulate these inks we put under our skin. The FDA also does not require ingredient disclosure on the inks ~ -they are considered trade secrets ~ and so tattoo inks may contain any chemical, including those known to be capable of causing mutations, birth defects and cancer or involved in other biochemical reactions in the body that might take decades to appear.
Without full disclosure of ingredients, it is impossible to know for sure what is in tattoo ink. Added to this, each color and each brand of ink has completely different ingredients.
The carrier solution itself might contain harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, detergents, or formaldehyde and other highly toxic aldehydes.
Allergic reactions have occurred with some of the many metals put
into tattoo inks, nickel being one of the most common metal allergies.
If you get a reaction from pierced earrings with nickel posts then you
will have a more serious allergic reaction if there is nickel in the
ink. Others have reacted to the mercury in red cinnabar, to cobalt
blue, and to cadmium sulfite when used as a yellow pigment. Some inks
were found to have high levels of lead and the blue inks were full of copper. Allergic reactions may occur infrequently with permanent tattoos, but the long-term health effects are still unknown due to the lack of regulation, testing, and long-term studies.
I’ve been told that the blacks and greens are generally safer ~ but watch out for the bright reds.
If you plan on having your tattoo removed, you should be aware that some
of the pigments used (especially Yellow # 7) are phototoxic and may
break down into toxic chemicals in the body when removed with UV light or laser, common techniques used in tattoo removal. The toxic end-products eventually wind up in the kidneys and liver.
A colleague wrote: all pigments are toxic to one degree or another – or
they wouldn’t be permanent… and the more permanent and bright they
are, the more toxic they are. He felt that the the dyes may block the flow of Qi through the acupuncture channels and he told me that when one removes old tattoos, often fine solid bits of matter appear on the skin.
certain tattoo ink ingredients may be plant-based or otherwise
considered safe and non-toxic, the truth is that no long-term studies
have been performed confirming that they are safe to inject as a
permanent cosmetic. Bottom line: don’t trust the government,
tattoo ink manufacturers, or tattoo artists to give you accurate and
complete information on the toxicity of the pigments and dyes being
would like to thank the many practitioners of Chinese Medicine who
helped me gather this information. We all share a certain frustration
because the government is so quick to crack down on herbs which have
been safely used for centuries yet many other more dangerous issues are