Healthy Kids

Published on July 25th, 2015 | by Linda Sechrist

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The Toxic Truth About Tattoos

The spike in popularity of tattooing that began a couple of decades ago in America and Europe continues to spread worldwide. Those considering getting one will do well to carefully review the options and the health dangers related to traditional tattoos.

Tattoo inks contain heavy metals, and red inks often contain mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. Tattoo parlors are regulated by states and municipalities, but the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to release ink ingredients. The lack of regulation is unsettling, as some 45 million Americans have been inked.

Many tattoo ink pigments are industrial-grade colors suitable for printer ink or automobile paint, and the FDA warns that it may possibly cause infections, allergic reactions, keloids (fibrous scar tissue), granulomas (response to inflammation, infection or s foreign substance) and potential complications connected with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The carrier solution used in tattoo inks also contains harmful substances such as denatured alcohol, methanol, antifreeze, detergents, formaldehyde and other toxic aldehydes.

A study in the journal Medicine by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, in Dallas, links commercial tattoos to the spread of hepatitis C. Dr. Robert Haley, a preventative medicine specialist and former Centers for Disease Control infection control official, comments, “We found that commercially acquired tattoos accounted for more than twice as many hepatitis C infections as injection-drug use. This means it may have been the largest single contributor to the nationwide epidemic of this form of hepatitis.”

Anya Vien is the owner of LivingTraditionally.com, focused on naturally healthy and sustainable living.

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About the Author

Linda Sechrist is an editor and senior writer for Natural Awakenings magazine. She writes on why we are better together at ItsAllAboutWe.com.


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