The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has issued a technical report on the use and possible health hazards of tattooing inks and permanent makeup (PMU).
Both products are complex mixtures. Pigments are the primary components, over 100 of which have been identified. But because they were not manufactured for these purposes, no risk assessment exists. According to experts such an assessment is required, given that the pigments are in constant contact with the skin.
For example, many pigments are part of the family of azocolorants. Use of such colorants has been prohibited in Germany since 2008 in the Tattoo Products Regulation (all links in this article are available in German only). No EU-wide regulation exists to date, and the substances continue to be used. Azocolorants release carcinogenic aromatic amines when exposed to sunlight and ultraviolet rays. Additional risks can be posed by impurities like polycyclic hydrocarbons, sensitizers, and the heavy metals present in many inks and PMU products. The European Rapid Alert System for dangerous nonfood products (RAPEX) has reported on extremely high concentrations of barium (measured value of 6,200 mg / kg) in tattoo ink manufactured as the External Ink brand.
The danger of infection is also present when the inks are not sterile or thinned with tap water. According to the authors, only 10% of tattoo artists work professionally.
The authors estimate that 10% of Europeans and 20% of Americans have tattoos. The Web site of the German Consumer Central provides comprehensive information on the risks of tattoos.
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