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Study: Over 80% of Tattoo Inks Contain ‘Ingredients’ Connected to Health Risks

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A study tested 54 tattoo inks and found that 45 (83%) contained ingredients not listed on the label, including potentially harmful chemicals like polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and higher alkanes.

Many unlisted ingredients can cause allergic reactions or other health issues.

The study’s authors wrote, “Major, unlisted adulterants include poly(ethylene glycol), propylene glycol, and higher alkanes. Many of the adulterants pose possible allergic or other health risks.”

They continued, “Taken together, the results from this study highlight the potential for a significant issue around inaccurate tattoo ink labeling in the United States.”

Assistant Professor of Chemistry John Swierk wrote in a statement, “We’re hoping the manufacturers take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their processes, and that artists and clients take this as an opportunity to push for better labeling and manufacturing.”

“The FDA is still figuring out what that is going to look like,” Swierk continued.

This highlights issues with inaccurate tattoo ink labeling in the U.S. Researchers hope manufacturers will improve labeling and manufacturing in response.

Tattoo ink regulation is still developing, with the FDA recently authorized to regulate inks in 2022.

However, previous recalls occurred due to contamination issues.

The study broke new ground by explicitly examining inks sold in the U.S. and identifying unlabeled ingredients like polyethylene glycol linked to health problems.

Swierk explained, “This is also the first study to explicitly look at inks sold in the United States and is probably the most comprehensive because it looks at the pigments, which nominally stay in the skin, and the carrier package, which is what the pigment is suspended in.”

He added, “Our goal in a lot of this research is to empower artists and their clients. Tattoo artists are serious professionals who have dedicated their lives to this craft, and they want the best possible outcomes for their clients. We’re trying to highlight that there are some deficiencies in manufacturing and labeling.”

Researchers aim to empower artists and clients by highlighting deficiencies in manufacturing transparency.

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