If you’re thinking about a tattoo to pay homage to your favourite band, or as an act of rebellion, you might want to opt for another creative outlet.
Tattoos can cause cancer and mutations, with one colour being particularly toxic to us, according to scientists from the European Chemicals Agency who conducted the research. They’re hoping to publish their findings immediately, while they continue to investigate the risks associated with getting inked.
“Many reports show significant concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing,” the agency stated.
“The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.”
Inks are regulated in North America, but not in the EU. If they do find chemicals to be harmful, with science or evidence to support it, it will be banned.
“If it is found that a restriction is needed, a formal proposal to restrict the substances will be submitted within one year to initiate the process,” an agency spokesman said.
One ink colour was found to be more toxic than others: red. The aggressive colour has been linked to dermatitis, due to its mercury sulphide content. Red ink is more likely to cause granulomas – little ridges creating bumpy skin – along with blue, green, and purple. The NHS made special mention of the dangers of black or neutral henna, too.
That isn’t the same as authentic henna, which is orange rather than black. The darker substance could contain a chemical dye, ‘so powerful and toxic that it is illegal to use it on the skin’.
The NHS cautioned: “If you see a shop or stall offering to paint black tattoos onto your skin, don’t be tempted to get one. It could leave you scarred for life and put you at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.”