May201110
FDA Investigating Tattoo Inks
04:42 PM
tattoo inks.jpg
Photo by Edgar Hoill

There's been a lot of discussion about tattoo inks lately. Yesterday, we wrote about cremation remains in tattoos and the media's recent fascination with it. A BoingBoing.net post on a Vegan lip tattoo also sparked some controversy on whether tattoos celebrating veganism are vegan themselves. [Of course, there are vegan-friendly inks. Check the list of animal-free inks on Jinxi's blog.]

Yesterday, NPR reported that the US Food & Drug Administration are starting to take a more serious look into what exactly is in tattoo inks and the potential health risks:

The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate tattoo ink. But until recently, it hadn't, citing more pressing public health problems and a lack of consumer complaints. FDA chemist Dr. Bhakti Petigara Harp says that recently, the agency has started to see an increase in consumer complaints.

"We've seen such things as infections, swelling, cracking, peeling and blistering at [the] tattoo site," Petigara Harp says.

In response to these complaints, the FDA has created a Consumer Update site & PDF called "Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?" There's nothing in it that is really big news: yes, people have reported allergic reactions to some inks, and dirty tattoos can lead to infection. What's interesting in this update is that the FDA will be doing further research into (1) the chemical composition of the inks and how they break down (metabolize) in the body; (2) the short-term and long-term safety of pigments used in tattoo inks; and (3) how the body responds to the interaction of light with the inks. Looking forward to their findings.

In the past, the FDA has relied on local authorities to monitor tattoo pigments, but we could be seeing a move toward greater regulatory action on the Fed level -- perhaps a mandate that manufacturers of pigments reveal all of their ingredient list. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.

Many thanks to Gabriel for the link!


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