Chemicals in tattoo inks need closer scrutiny

As tattoos have grown in popularity, so have complaints of adverse side effects associated with both their application and removal. A new study, done by chemistry students at Northern Arizona University, looked at the chemical composition of a variety of tattoo inks to better understand their potential health risks. The findings, presented today at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, suggest that closer regulation of the tattoo industry may be warranted, according to the researchers.

Although inks used in tattoos are subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as cosmetics and color additives, the agency has not traditionally regulated them, letting the task fall to local jurisdictions, according to a fact sheet issued by the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-204.html. This effectively gives a tattoo artist license to inject whatever he or she deems appropriate under the skin, according to the researchers.

“Tattoos are no longer limited to the rough and rowdy,” says Haley Finley-Jones, an undergraduate chemistry student and lead author of the study. “With the growing popularity of tattoos among young people, it is vital that we develop a better understanding of this form of self expression.”

The new research — a joint effort between Finley-Jones and Leslie Wagner as part of an undergraduate research project directed by Jani Ingram, a professor of chemistry at NAU — has two main goals: to characterize the diversity of tattoo inks, and to determine if any inks pose health threats in the form of heavy metals or other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Overall, the study covers 17 inks from five different manufacturers. “We chose to study five different brands of black ink as it is the most common color used in tattoos,” Finley-Jones says. The researchers also are testing three different brands of red, blue, yellow and white ink. Tattoo artists frequently mix inks to achieve the desired color, so the researchers selected their samples based on the most likely base colors.

Because there have been no previous studies, they are using analytical techniques that can test for a wide variety of chemical components, rather than looking for a specific group of compounds.

“At this point in the study, we have determined that the inks do in fact vary in composition from manufacturer to manufacturer and from color to color,” Wagner says. The researchers also have found some indication of the presence of metals, and are in the process of running more tests to verify the identity of the metals.

A number of potential health problems might be stemming from the lack of oversight, according to the researchers. There have been a variety of claims that tattoo inks cause adverse effects in people, including allergic reactions to ink components, a burning sensation during the course of MRIs, and the migration of inks to different tissues in the body, such as the lungs.

It is unclear, however, what the specific causes of these reactions might be, and the only way to gain better understanding is to know what chemicals make up the inks, the researchers say. Finley-Jones and Wagner expect that the variation found in their testing and the potential presence of toxic metals will encourage regulators to begin monitoring the tattoo ink industry more closely.

There are other problems with unknown compositions of tattoo inks. For example, surgery to remove tattoos is becoming more widespread, and not knowing the composition makes the procedure more difficult. “Once the components of a tattoo ink have been identified, doctors removing the inks can use their knowledge of the chemical characteristics of the components to select a treatment that will be most effective and, hopefully, the least painful for the patient,” Wagner says.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

From American Chemical Society

23 COMMENTS

  1. There are a lot of reasons for possibly wanting a tattoo removed – the positive element of tattoo removal is that you are no longer burdened with a tattoo you seriously regret. If a tattoo is holding you back from getting a job you want or keeps you from attaining goals you have set for yourself, a little pain and scarring may be worth it to you. If you have a gang-related tattoo and are no longer associating yourself with that gang or any gang (good for you!), it would be in your best interests to have it removed. If you have a tattoo that symbolizes hate or prejudice, I hope that you will decide that it is time to let it go. If you are wearing a tattoo of a past love and now you have a new special person in your life, it would be unkind to your new love NOT to get rid of the old tattoo.

  2. Sunday, April 17, 2005
    Examination of an article reviewing
    Toxic Tattoo Ink Report appearing in Medical News Today article
    Toxic Tattoo Ink Arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny.
    Report lauded in the press, but a disgrace to academia … and the press.

    Even as transparently flawed as it is, the report is seized on by laser practitioners in hopes of hijacking FDA regulatory powers into outlawing permanent tattoo ink.

    A sentence by sentence examination of a recent article that was found typical.
    By Westley Wood (Comments in Blue. Original Text indented in black)

    Title of Medical News Today Article: Chemicals in tattoo inks need closer scrutiny, 14 Mar 2005
    Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=21202

    The first sentence of the article begins:

    As tattoos have grown in popularity, so have complaints of adverse side effects associated with both their application and removal.

    This opening sentence is a fabrication. It also has a special little twist: clever to try and sneak stuff in under the radar for the unwary, but not clever enough.

    For the statement to have any hope of being true we would have to know at least
    –a) the number of complaints
    –b) the number of tattoos applied and removed,
    –c) both before and
    –d) after popularity.
    But there is no such data, not even within the tattoo industry
    ( — wait for the twist – you will like this ).

    — the statement would have to be based on the ratios of the complaint data. But there is no data and there are no ratios. This is pure fabrication.
    — the statement would also have to present that the complaints are legitimate, investigated as most likely true and convincingly associated with application or removal. There does not exist even a protocol to investigate anything like this much less the existence of any study.

    Later in the article we are told what these adverse effects are; and don’t forget, they must be “necessarily-significant”. ( Wait till you hear these. This is the stuff of legends. )

    And here’s the twist: the inclusion of the word “removal” reveals the twist — and the real agenda — which is, that it’s the word “application” that is out of place.
    The sentence should be read without that word:

    As tattoos have grown in popularity, so have complaints of adverse side effects associated with (laser) removal.

    Now the “report” can begin to take focus and the smoke clear.

    The disappointment is not from clients, but from laser technicians not getting the results they want using laser technology. The “complaints” are not from clients and have nothing to do with “toxic” chemicals. There are no victims. It’s about doctors plotting to outlaw non-removable tattoo inks.

    There are no adverse “side effects” of significance or statistical relevance. Clients aren’t getting less than optimal results or unwanted side effects from “application.” It has nothing to do with “application” at all.

    Satisfaction with “application” is at an all time high.

    The purpose of the study is stated: to help justify regulation of tattoo ink.

    According to the “researchers”, the purpose, to demonstrate the adverse health effects of tattoo ink, will be proven if the presence of certain chemicals are detected. That’s their scientific method. To put it another way, if certain chemicals are detected in tattoo ink, then tattoo ink is harmful and should be regulated. This wouldn’t even make it in a seventh grade science project.

    The problem isn’t that ink contains detectable levels of toxic chemicals, (all nature has detectable levels of these same chemicals) but tattoo ink is not regulated. That’s the “problem” the study hopes to help.

    As a tattoo ink supplier, the second in line to hear adverse-effect-reports from the field, after tattoo artists, we state that reports mentioning ink are rare or less. Though not suggested in this article it would be good to pre-dispel any attempt to resurrect the discredited “under-reporting” argument. Any argument based on “under-reporting” is not considered valid unless a study has been done to support the theory. No study has been done and no evidence is available for this charge so keep it in mind to identify the confounders.

    The real case is, laser removal has significant areas of failure and should be recognized as un-reliable — and may actually be doing harm. Don’t be surprised. Studies of the health effects of laser removal are conspicuously lacking. If anything, the FDA should take a long hard look at the laser’s damaging effects on the body and what new chemicals are being morphed and transformed from the original ink. Laser supporters have openly stated that they don’t know and it’s obvious- there is no caution using these devices.

    Dr. Lance Brown, a laser tattoo removal specialist interviewed on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC-TV spot, stated that particles altered by laser removal may be more dangerous having been lasered. Tattoos appear to disappear he said but may stay in the body and cause harm. Dr. Brown said this made it difficult for doctors.

    The battle plan: get regulatory action to make it illegal to tattoo with “permanent ” ink ( ink that cannot be removed by a laser ).

    From The Archives of Dermatology: 2001

    Like it or not, we are charged with caring for the nation’s skin problems, including self-inflicted ones.

    First a rally cry for all dermatologists to get on board and remember their Nation’s call, their mission, their “charge” and then a new refinement in the definition of Tattoo.

    A tattoo now includes a new delimiter: tattoos are “self-inflicted” skin problems.
    There is another fallacy of logic at work here, switching the meaning of “skin problems.” The normal meaning is now stretched to include tattoos. By definition, tattoos are now considered “problems” needing a solution. And doctors have a solution in mind.

    Notice that this wording was chosen to ridicule tattoo rather than objectively present a scholarly scientific tone. We would have expected something like this: some tattoos are considered a problem by the wearer and the client wants the tattoo changed or removed. Because we are dermatologists specializing in caring for the skin this falls within our discipline to try and help these clients.

    Unless something changes, we are going to disappoint the millions of
    persons getting tattoos, who eventually show up at a dermatologist’s practice to get them removed…
    …If the most stubborn-to-remove tattoo inks can be identified, we might predict which patients will do poorly, and perhaps these inks can be taken off the market.
    But, what else can be done?
    This editorial will address the following topics:
    (1) improving the clearance of tattoo ink particles after laser treatment,
    (2) optimizing the laser tattoo ink interaction,
    (3) eliminating difficult-to-remove, antigenic and/or toxic tattoo inks from the market, and
    (4) designing new tattoo inks.
    Archives of Dermatology,
    Regarding Tattoos: Is That Sunlight, or an Oncoming Train at the End of the Tunnel? R. Rox Anderson, MD, Vol. 137 No. 2, February 2001

    Dr. Anderson’s report goes on to explain that option 1 and 2 either don’t work, can’t be done, or are unlikely to be achievable. Option 3 is the answer and 4 is not likely. In short, the detection of the presence of toxic chemicals is to be championed by dermatologists to push for the forced banning of inks that cannot be removed (so that lasers will work).

    Lasers just don’t work well – that is the real problem.

    From this same article: “Regarding Tattoos” the process is described.
    (Comments in Blue, Original text indented in black)

    What and where are the tattoo ink particles?

    Tattoos consist of phagocytosed submicrometer ink particles trapped in the
    lysosomes of phagocytic dermal cells, mostly fibroblasts, macrophages, and mast
    cells.

    What happens during laser removal?

    When extremely intense (100 million W/cm2), brief (billionths of a second) light pulses are absorbed by these intracellular ink particles, they reach extreme temperatures (at least 300°C). The particles fracture, undergo chemical changes, violently boil water in the cell cytoplasm, rupture the cells, and release laser-altered ink into the dermis.

    Very graphic language.

    Some of this free ink is eliminated by lymphatic and transepidermal transport, but most of it is rephagocytosed by somatic dermal cells within a few days.

    The cells again trap remaining smaller ink particles that have not been removed.

    This rephagocytosis accounts for the “residual” tattoo after each laser treatment; we found that essentially all of the residual tattoo ink particles were ultrastructurally altered by a single, previous laser treatment.

    All the ink particles are “ultrastructurally altered” by the first laser session but within a few days the cells migrate back into the area and rephagocytoze the particles that remain. The body works too fast for laser success. Each subsequent laser session must explode the new cells, again and again until eventually all the ink is eliminated. “Ultrastructurally altered” is a euphemism because it is “self-admittedly” claimed to be unknown what the ink particles are changed into.

    Laser removal is difficult, therefore permanent ink should be outlawed. It seems pretty clear that lasers need more study and regulation, not tattoo ink.

    Lymphatic transport seems to account for most of the ink removed, although ink is sometimes shed in a scale-crust after each treatment.

    What happens to those particles? Where do they go? What is known? What actually happens chemically?

    Although it is clear that chemical reactions occur during
    laser treatment, we know almost nothing about them.

    Do we read that correctly?? What?

    I don’t believe the denial.

    I suspect that laser manufacturers have studied this and are keeping their findings to themselves. It’s a sure thing they are not sharing.

    For carbon tattoos, the chemistry may be “good.” Homemade tattoos made of carbon (india ink, graphite, ash) are easy to remove. Perhaps the reason for this is simply that carbon can burn.

    And how good is burning carbon while in the body?
    To the Doctor, “good” is when you don’t see it anymore. Out of sight out of mind.

    For other tattoos, the laser-induced chemistry may be “bad.” Cosmetic tattoos containing red iron oxide (FE2O3) and titanium dioxide turn black on Q-switched laser treatment.

    That’s 2 testimonies now that lasers alter ink and suspicion (but no call for a study) that the change is bad and harmful for the body.

    And on to the call for action and the battle plan — change tattoo.

    The inks that darken could easily be identified and potentially removed from the market…This is a good idea.

    Many, if not most tattooists are professionals who genuinely care about the well-being and long-term satisfaction of their clients. These tattooists would gladly stop using problematic inks.

    Problematic inks? The inks are not the problem for the wearers. The lasers are the problem and since they cannot do the job the ink needs to be changed to insure the profitability of doctors wedded to their lasers.

    Notice the manipulation – fawning on tattooists calling them “Professionals who genuinely care” who would “gladly stop” using the inks. Wait to you hear what he really thinks about tattoo professionals. Wait for his sucker punch.

    In the first half of the last century some inks contained chemicals that produced adverse effects and these chemicals were abandoned – the same process by which medicine has advanced. So why this double standard because some types of inks were used a century ago.
    Implicit to the meaning of a tattoo is its irrevocableness and permanence. Part of the attraction (a horrible concept to some).

    Removeability is not the problem seeking an answer. The problem is laser technicians who insist on laser technology as a panacea.

    The Food and Drug Administration, which does not approve any tattoo inks, should be willing to remove some from commerce if there were good data and a formal request to justify such action.

    Kind of shocking to see such a blunt intention to use the FDA to change tattoo inks because these doctors can’t get their lasers to remove all the pigments.

    It is unlikely the FDA will regulate tattoo inks without real scientific justification. They are certainly not going to be fooled by chemistry students claiming epidemiologic expertise and insight.

    For example, cinnabar (mercuric sulfide), an antigenic red ink that contains mercury, was removed from the US market long ago.

    This is a tricky deception.

    These inks were not “removed” at all, but abandoned by tattooists.
    It wasn’t the FDA or any other body that stepped in and saved tattoo clients, but the tattooists that stopped using inks that caused client problems.

    Tattooers are the most knowledgeable observers of tattoo and any adverse reactions.

    Tattooers are the first to see, the first to understand and the first to act in the best interest of the greatest satisfaction for tattoo clients. This author distorts the record by omission leaving the reader to believe the FDA acted to do that and they need now to do more. Tattooists deserve the credit for keeping tattoo so blemish-free.

    Because tattooing extends into prehistory and will extend far into the future, it simply makes sense for us to figure out how to “do it right.”

    Do it Right?
    What did he say ? ?
    So, for thousands of years humanity has got it all wrong.
    Anderson’s “Doing it Right” is to make it removable by his lasers.
    Who can take this seriously? Non-removable tattoos don’t “make sense” to him, he says.

    In view of the care we take for testing and prescribing drugs, how should we feel about the fact that 1 in 20 Americans will be injected with unknown impure substances by people with little or no medical training?

    Read this loaded language of manipulation:
    drugs, injected, unknown, impure, substances, people —

    — remember 2 sentences ago — the “tattooists are professionals” pitch ?

    Now tattooists are untrained “people” injecting! Unknown! Impure! substances! with little or no training in medicine! Medical training is now added to the list of qualifications needed for tattoo. Another new from Dr. Anderson.
    Of course, … he’s the doctor. People shouldn’t be allowed to tattoo.
    Ten years ago or more, doctors were advocating permanent cosmetic tattooing be done by licensed doctors only, and yes, nurses or “others under their supervision.”

    There are several schemes that could be used to design easily removable tattoos.

    A market segment would want laser removable inks. This would be a good contribution for tattoo. Having an additional option would be welcomed. But that’s a far cry from banning permanent inks for the sake of laser technicians. New inks would be welcome – now everyone can have the experience. This would open up a new market. Tattooists would not oppose Dr. Anderson designing removable inks.

    But that’s not the program. The program is the use of toxic arguments to outlaw inks that don’t come out and only allow inks that “seem to disappear” beneath the skin when laser altered.

    Question: Why should laser removal be advocated when nobody knows or cares to study how these lasers are effecting the body?
    Answer: because doctors want to make money too?

    This effort itself is proof that the laser industry has failed as a reliable and predictable option for tattoo removal and should not be routinely suggested by tattooists. There is just too much unknown about the admitted harm lasers cause.

    This emperor is naked.

    Back to The Medical News Article, – continues:

    A new study, done by chemistry students at Northern Arizona University, looked at the chemical composition of a variety of tattoo inks to better understand their potential health risks.

    The study was not looking at the chemical composition of inks at all but testing to find the presence of “toxic” elements.

    It was not and does not contribute to any understanding of potential health risks – that’s epidemiology — not what chemistry students do in a lab exercise looking for specific compounds or elements in a liquid.

    Totally surprising that this should appear in writing in a medical news paper and before the American Chemical Society.

    The findings, presented today at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, suggest that closer regulation of the tattoo industry may be warranted, according to the researchers.

    “Researchers” did he say?
    These two college students aren’t “researchers” they are students doing a school project that looks like research.
    What a joke.
    The question for the world’s largest scientific society should be: How could this happen?

    The argument to prove the conclusion is known as a fallacy in logic: the conclusion does not follow from the evidence. Though the presence of a toxic chemicals may be detected, that is not evidence of harm and is not shown to be of any magnitude big enough that FDA regulation is required. Hundreds of millions of people the world over get tattooed without adverse side effects.
    These “future scholars” and their professor need courses in logic and scientific method. They probably don’t get any.

    Although inks used in tattoos are subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as cosmetics and color additives, the agency has not traditionally regulated them, letting the task fall to local jurisdictions, according to a fact sheet issued by the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-204.html. This effectively gives a tattoo artist license to inject whatever he or she deems appropriate under the skin, according to the researchers.

    The author leaves out the reason why the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks:
    there is not evidence of harm other than isolated anecdotal cases.

    And the distortions continue to pile up:
    “effectively gives a tattoo artist license to inject whatever…”
    There can be no question that this project has an agenda.
    “Researchers?”
    The FDA does not give anyone, even doctors, a license (even effectively) to inject “whatever” into anyone.
    What does it say about American academia then, that there is not one person who was watching the hen house. I could not find one report critical of the results based on the lack of evidence.

    “Tattoos are no longer limited to the rough and rowdy,” says Haley Finley-Jones, an undergraduate chemistry student and lead author of the study. “With the growing popularity of tattoos among young people, it is vital that we develop a better understanding of this form of self expression.”

    We don’t have to comment on this statement because it has no understandable meaning.
    Keith Olbermann did his best to discredit tattoo by saying on MSNBC-TV that 20 years ago you got a tattoo fro one of three reasons: because you were in the Navy, in a gang or were drunk. Another “brilliant” analysis.

    The new research – a joint effort between Finley-Jones and Leslie Wagner as part of an undergraduate research project directed by Jani Ingram, a professor of chemistry at NAU – has two main goals: to characterize the diversity of tattoo inks, and to determine if any inks pose health threats in the form of heavy metals or other potentially dangerous chemicals.

    The first goal is a good exercise and reasonable. But not the second: To determine health threats by means of a lab analysis drawing epidemiologic conclusions about health – how absurd is this.
    The second goal is not achievable – by any scientific process. There is no way to even devise a means to test this hypothesis.

    To be toxic, chemicals require dose amounts, per kg, per exposure and by cumulative exposure.

    Toxic to human health is relative. Dosage, weight of the subject, how many exposures and the ability of the body to handle the toxic substances determine health. The goal is incorrect and would not follow from any analytical chemical analysis. It hasn’t even been established how to regard tattoos as cumulative or as one-time exposure.

    Students as well as their professors need serious remedial training in scientific methodology.

    Overall, the study covers 17 inks from five different manufacturers.
    “We chose to study five different brands of black ink as it is the most common
    color used in tattoos,” Finley-Jones says.
    The researchers also are testing three different brands of red, blue, yellow and white ink. Tattoo artists frequently mix inks to achieve the desired color, so the researchers selected their samples based on the most likely base colors.

    Because there have been no previous studies, they are using analytical techniques that can test for a wide variety of chemical components, rather than looking for a specific group of compounds.

    Not only wrong but could be considered deceitful at worst, incompetent at best, because they claim to have “searched” the records and found nothing. If you can’t find the obvious you shouldn’t get a passing grade.

    In fact, Spaulding’s inks were the subject of a published study that they must have come across – if they “searched” the record with academic effort.

    They did not contact ink manufacturers either, asking if studies were done on their inks.

    The FDA has walked into our premises concerning ink so we know are on the radar screen. Unless I am wrong these chemistry undergraduates probably don’t have a screen.

    Surprise!

    We already did chemical analyses of our tattoo inks which we would have gladly shared – if we had been asked. But their study was too “cool” for all the leg work and effort that would be required. And likely encouraged by their professor as subjects the kids were interested in. Good motivation. It’s just the poorest example of scholarship.

    Unfortunately the predetermined goals and method of presentation harms the tattoo industry by false unfounded allegations discrediting and falsifying the real safety of tattoo.

    The distortion and unwarranted conclusions about tattoo inks needs an apology and the report re-written. It surely supports the theory that some subjects just cannot get an unbiased hearing, especially in academia.

    This study should be publicly discredited. The professor should be talked to.

    At this point in the study, we have determined that the inks do in fact vary in composition from manufacturer to manufacturer and from color to color,” Wagner says. The researchers also have found some indication of the presence of metals, and are in the process of running more tests to verify the identity of the metals.

    How could it be a surprise that manufacturers use different ingredients and formulas.

    The presence of toxic metals isn’t even demonstrated and the conclusions are published before the evidence is confirmed.

    A number of potential health problems might be stemming from the lack of oversight, according to the researchers. There have been a variety of claims that tattoo inks cause adverse effects in people, including allergic reactions to ink components, a burning sensation during the course of MRIs, and the migration of inks to different tissues in the body, such as the lungs.

    The dreaded, “dire” consequences finally appear. These statements can’t be taken seriously.

    How is it possible to think the statement makes sense — that “potential” health problems could have been prevented by the FDA ridding ink of even detectable levels of certain chemicals. There is no evidence that these “adverse” reactions are caused by these chemicals’ presence. This isn’t science, this isn’t research, this is a joke.

    The sentence isn’t even grammatically meaningful.

    The Institute of Health wrote book after book decrying the lack of evidence based public health policies and here we see a perfect example of how students are un-prepared to apply evidence-based reasoning to their field of study.

    There is no evidence, not one piece – that links so called “adverse” effects with any ingredient – the exact composition of which still remains unconfirmed.

    And the “researchers” go even further suggesting that the cause is the lack of oversight (by the FDA).

    If they read FDA statements they would have learned what allergic reactions are and that clusters of cases would be required to determine if there was sufficient evidence for a study.

    “Burning” sensations during MRI is mostly theoretical, conjecture without sufficient documentation or evidence as a “problem.”

    Migration to different tissues in the body is known for anything taken into the body and is not evidence of harm. Tattoo ink going into the lungs is a real mystery. In all my years this has never been heard of. And even if it were true – what does that mean other than having a colorful liver ?

    It is unclear, however, what the specific causes of these reactions might be, and the only way to gain better understanding is to know what chemicals make up the inks, the researchers say. Finley-Jones and Wagner expect that the variation found in their testing and the potential presence of toxic metals will encourage regulators to begin monitoring the tattoo ink industry more closely.

    The researchers admit they don’t know but claim they know the “only way” to find the answer: chemical analysis of the inks.

    We already know what is in the ink. This study is useful but not new, and now sensationalized.

    Saying that knowing the specific composition of inks might help understand the “reasons” for adverse reactions shows a lack of understanding about cause and effect.

    The list of three adverse reactions: 1) allergy, 2) burning MRI sensations and 3) ink going into other “tissue” are not problems at all.

    Even if a study were conducted about someone’s allergic reaction (an isolated case) the results still may never be known. It would be an extravagant waste of taxpayer money pursuing this. It is only theoretical that inks containing iron oxides are pulled – and no record we can find of any reported adverse effect. And inventing a migration problem is just that, an invention. The authors want to encourage the FDA to monitor tattoo inks. What a huge waste of valuable resources that could be used for real health problems.

    There are other problems with unknown compositions of tattoo inks. For example, surgery to remove tattoos is becoming more widespread, and not knowing the composition makes the procedure more difficult. “Once the components of a tattoo ink have been identified, doctors removing the inks can use their knowledge of the chemical characteristics of the components to select a treatment that will be most effective and, hopefully, the least painful for the patient,” Wagner says.

    They mean laser surgery. And yes there are problems with laser surgery.

    The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

    – Jason Gorss

    Haley Finley-Jones and Leslie D. Wagner are undergraduate chemistry students at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.

    Jani C. Ingram, Ph.D., is a professor of chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.

    ANYL 248 In the flesh: Chemical characterization of tattoo inks

    Haley Finley-Jones1, Leslie D. Wagner2, and Jani C. Ingram2. (1) Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, P. O. Box 5698, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, Fax: 928-5238111, [email protected], (2) Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University

    The intentions of this study are to determine the composition of tattoo inks as currently they are not regulated. While the components of topically applied make-up must be approved by the FDA, a tattoo artist has the license to use whatever he deems appropriate for injection into the skin. The hypothesis this study seeks to prove is that there is a great variety in chemical compositions for tattoo inks on the market. It is expected that the variation of results will be useful in support of regulating the tattoo ink industry. To determine the actual variation of inks on the market, we will test several inks in a variety of colors. In this study we will employ a stepwise analytical approach to determine the chemical components of the ink samples. The results from metals analysis by ICP-MS and functional group screening by SIMS will be discussed.

    Briefly explain in lay language what you have done, why it is significant and what are its implications (particularly to the general public)

    Tattoos are no longer limited to the rough and rowdy. With the danger of dirty needles deteriorating, new potential risks are coming to the surface. The intent of this study is to determine the chemical composition of tattoo inks. It is widely unknown that tattoo ink manufacturing is not regulated by the FDA. Because of this, there are a number of potential health problems that might arise. There are other problems with unknown composition as well. For example, tattoo removal is becoming more prevalent and not knowing the composition makes it all the more difficult. In our research we have obtained a selection of inks varying in color and manufacturer. We are analyzing these inks using a variety of different techniques and methods. For health purposes, we are analyzing for heavy metals and other potentially dangerous chemicals. We are also trying to determine just how varied the components are. With the growing popularity of tattoos among young people, it is vital that we develop a better understanding of this form of self expression.

    How new is this work and how does it differ from that of others who may be doing similar research?

    This is the first scientific study done on the composition of tattoo inks. In literature searches, we were unable to find any similar research that had been published in a peer-edited journal.

    They carefully word this so that they don’t exactly hide but don’t reveal they must know of the Garric Law Groups Toxic Tattoo Ink suit action from 2003 naming Spalding-Rodgers as well as ourselves, Unimax Supply Co. and others, based on detectable levels of toxic chemicals in our inks as violating California Proposition 65 by not notifying consumers of the presence of these chemicals. This case is pending because the people of California in a referendum overturned the law in November 2004 that allowed private individuals to sue others if there are no victims.

    It would be reasonable to think that this is where they got the idea to examine tattoo inks. I don’t believe them.

    They did not contact us to ask if we had any information or chemical analyses of inks which we do, and what aspects we consider important or what steps we are taking to assure the safety of inks. We were not contacted to see if we could help.

    Notice this statement, worth repeating:

    The hypothesis this study seeks to prove is that there is a great variety in chemical compositions for tattoo inks on the market. It is expected that the variation of results will be useful in support of regulating the tattoo ink industry.

    Need I say more.

    Quoted in Where’s the Evidence
    Drummond Rennie, an editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
    There seems to be
    no study too fragmented,
    no hypothesis too trivial,
    no literature citation too biased,
    or too egotistical,
    no design too warped,
    no methodology too bungled,
    no presentation of results too inaccurate,
    and too contradictory,
    no analysis too self-serving,
    no argument too circular,
    no conclusion too trifling,
    or too unjustified and
    no grammar and syntax too offensive
    for a paper to end up in print.” p27

    This aptly describes the “Toxic Tattoo Ink” Report..

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