Expanding list of banned tattoo pigments in the EU: The hidden dangers and impacts on the vibrant world of body art

Scientists have concluded that a number of pigments in the colours used for tattoos are potentially dangerous to human health. As a result, their use will soon be banned in the EU.

The colourful world of tattoos is about to fade. At least in the EU. Some inks have already been banned in their current form, and soon more will be added.

The tattoo industry is no longer associated with gloomy semi-basements, where customers are inked in dim light with a monochrome design. Most modern tattoo parlours operate to the strictest hygiene standards. At the same time, studies continue to show that certain inks contain harmful substances.

The EU has a list of banned pigments and colours that is updated regularly. It is based on the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

Expanding list of banned tattoo pigments in the EU: The hidden dangers and impacts on the vibrant world of body art
Photo by: dw.com

Restriction of use

The new EU regulation, which will come into force at the beginning of 2022, bans or restricts the use of around four thousand chemicals used in the manufacture of tattoo and permanent make-up colours in the EU. According to experts, most of these substances have not been adequately researched and may be hazardous to human health.

This year, the list will be extended – the sale and use of pigments such as Green 7 (dark green) and Blue 15 (bright blue) will be banned in the EU. Experts believe they contain carcinogenic substances that can contribute to the formation of malignant and benign tumours and cause severe allergic reactions.

The decision was taken under the EU’s chemicals regulation REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). The problem is compounded by the fact that two thirds of all tattoo inks contain these pigments and there is currently no alternative!

What are tattoo inks actually made of?

There are tens of thousands of colours in the vibrant tattoo ink market. Their chemical composition can include around 100 substances. These include organic and inorganic pigments, carriers, thickeners, solvents, stabilisers, preservatives, elements for gloss and sharpness of the drawing and the like.

Many of these have been artificially created for purposes other than cosmetic use and may therefore be harmful to skin and health in general.

“There are periodic reports that the colours in tattoos are carcinogenic. It is currently impossible to confirm or deny this unequivocally. To assess the risks, a serious analysis of tattooed and non-tattooed groups is needed,” says Wolfgang Bäumler of the Dermatology Clinic in Regensburg and an expert on tattoos. But such a study does not yet exist.

Photo by: liontattoostore.ru

Tattoo colours accumulate in the lymph nodes

“Logically, our body perceives the substance injected into the skin as something foreign that needs to be got rid of. Therefore, the immune system tries to transport these substances from the tattooed skin further into the body, and the first visible target is the nearby lymph nodes,” says Beumler, describing the routes that tattoo ink takes in the human body.
“A red tattoo on the shoulder means that the nearby lymph nodes are also red. And it’s going to stay that way for the rest of your life,” he says.

Because the pigment is deposited in the lymph nodes, not only do they change colour, but they also become larger. However, according to the expert, this does not affect the function of the lymph nodes – they are part of our immune system and their main task is to filter out substances that pollute the body.

At the same time, the expert notes that “it has been proven that pigments from coloured tattoos get into the liver and, most probably, into the kidneys… In other words, the colour goes on a kind of journey through the body”.

Tattoos as a trend

In the world of tattoos, as in other areas, there are fashion trends. The only difference is that while you can change clothes or hairstyles that are out of fashion, it is not so easy to get rid of an “outdated” tattoo.

When asked about the reasons for getting a tattoo, the most common answer is that it is beautiful. But after new EU rules come into force, fans of colourful body art and tattoo artists will have to make some compromises.

According to dw.com by Mary Clair

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