New reports from Desmond Tobin, director at the Bradford University Center for Skin Sciences suggests that carcinogenic compounds found in the common tattoo inks used in Europe can be linked to the development of cancer. Manufacturers acknowledge that as much as 5% of tattoo shops use inks that contain toxic chemicals; it’s the nanoparticles and dyes of the tattoo pigment that get transferred through the bloodstream and accumulate in the kidneys and spleen, organs that are vital in purifying the blood from toxins.
Though the research is still in its preliminary stages and cancer development may take years, Tobin’s findings suggest that collagen is permanently damaged by active ingredients in tattoo ink. The specific compounds in question are cobalt and mercury. Jorgen Serup, Professor of Dermatology at the Copenhagen University Hospital reported that he found carcinogenic chemicals in 13 of the 21 most commonly used tattoo inks.
So, what is to be done about these concerns? Well, the unfortunate fact is that Europe has no regulation for tattoo inks, and many inks are sold without the ingredients listed, leaving both the tattoo artist and client in the dark about what is permanently going into their bodies. Serup suggests more legislative regulation to at least let clients know what is going into their skin.
"People should be given written information about the inks that are used on them. It may be that, like cigarette smoking, they still choose to take the risk, but they need to be informed” Serup told the Sunday Times.
Concerned clientele should definitely inquire to their artists regarding what their inks are composed of, and if it’s a pressing enough issue, seek alternatives. There are plenty of ink lines out there; John Montgomery’s Alla Prima Ink, for example, is vegan, free of solvents and all PET plastics, making it much safer to use.
Alla Prima Ink Arcane Intro Set - Free of Solvents, Animal Products, and PET Plastics
Research will continue for the foreseeable future, but ingredient transparency doesn’t seem like too much to ask.