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FDA Wants You to Reconsider That Tattoo


May 6, 2016 — The FDA is reminding consumers about the risk of allergic reactions and skin infections from tattoo inks that are contaminated with bacteria, mold, or toxic chemicals.

Most people know about the risk of unhygienic tattoo parlors and non-sterile needles. But in recent years, there have been several major infection outbreaks and recalls for contaminated inks. According to the agency:

“Tattoo risks include scarring, allergic reactions, and infections from non-sterile needles and contaminated ink.”

The inks can be contaminated during the manufacturing process. However, the most common culprit is the use of non-sterile water to dilute inks. There is no way to know if a product is safe, even if it comes in a sealed bottle.

There are also scientific reports of tattoo inks containing toxic chemicals like printer toner or car paint. The FDA is now testing products heavy metals, degradants, pH stabilizers, microbicides, and coating agents

The symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, redness, and bumps on the tattooed skin. Severe infections can cause high-grade fever, shaking, chills, and sweats. Patients may need to be hospitalized, receive IV antibiotics, or even undergo surgery.

Permanent tattoos aren’t the only problem. Black dye in temporary henna tattoos — popular in many vacation spots, especially among children — can also cause severe skin reactions or scarring.

The British Medical Journal recently published a graphic case report of a 10 year-old boy who developed a painful reaction after vacationing with his family in Spain.

The FDA issued a Safety Warning about a dye in black henna called paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which is added to traditional red henna to make it darker and dry faster.


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