FDA Warns of Tattoo-Related Health Risks

August 3, 2017

Many people view tattoos as a safe way to exhibit their individuality. According to the FDA, however, tattoos aren't nearly as safe as people think. Before you add ink to your body, learn some important facts about tattoos.
There are risks. According to the FDA, unhygienic tattooing practices and equipment have led to widespread infections throughout the U.S. Much of the time, these infections result from mold or bacteria transmission due to the use of non-sterile water to dilute color pigments.
Not all tattoo ink is safe. Studies indicate that some tattoo ink contains pigments used in car paint and printer toner. The FDA has not approved these inks for cosmetic purposes, and there's no way to know what types of adverse reactions they could cause.
Tattoos can cause ongoing health problems. In some cases, people suffer serious reactions to a new tattoo, including rashes, chills, fever, shaking and sweats. Sometimes these infections require antibiotic medications and lengthy hospital stays. In certain instances, allergic reactions can occur, and - since tattoo inks are permanent - these reactions can persist indefinitely.
Scar tissue may develop. Some people develop unsightly scar tissue after getting tattoos. You could also develop granulomas, which look like small bumps or knots and form around materials which the body perceives as foreign.
They can interfere with certain medical tests. In some cases, people experience burning or swelling around their tattoos when receiving MRIs. While not considered dangerous, these issues can create unpleasant experiences.
We don't know the long-term effects. The FDA says it has received numerous complaints about bad reactions to tattoos years after they were applied. Experts are conducting studies to evaluate the long-term impact of tattoo ingredients on the human body; however, they still can't say how safe or unsafe tattoos really are.
They are difficult to remove. Tattoo removal is a costly, painstaking process that doesn't always prove successful. Many people end up with unattractive scars following the procedure, and experts do not yet know the consequences of having pigments broken down in the body after laser treatment.
When to See a Doctor
If you do decide to get a tattoo, keep a watchful eye for signs of infection or allergic reactions. If you see signs of a problem, contact a health care professional and notify the tattoo artists about your symptoms. Ask the artist for information about the ink lot or batch number to help identify the source of the problem.

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