Contaminated Ink: Culprit of Tattoo Infections

The latest press release by the US FDA is to inform tattoo enthusiasts about the innate danger of infections from the tattoo inks. This health news release has come from the Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

The FDA has requested all health care professionals and anyone even remotely involved with tattooing to report incidence of rashes on skin arising from tattoos to a special Medwatch program launched by the Department.

Tattoo-InfectionsContamination of tattoo inks

The role of Mycobacteria in tattoo linked infections has been under the scanner for a long time. Scientists have revealed that Mycobacteria growing in the tattoo inks are the number one cause of many infections that affect lungs, joints and eyes, in particular.

These infections appear as rashes and blisters on the skin but difficult to diagnose. The treatment lasts for more than 6 months. Mycobacteria of the type abcesses and chelonae are present mostly in drinking water and not eliminated by chlorine.

Though most of the tattoo inks and pigments were found to be contaminated due to use of contaminated water, some of the undiluted versions direct from the factory, were also found to be contaminated.

Apart from Mycobacteria, other pathogens such as fungi and molds are known to be common contaminants in the pigments and inks used for tattooing. Symptoms can vary from mild rash with blisters on the skin surface to severe abscesses that penetrate deep into the skin. These require surgery and prolonged treatment with antibiotics.

List of precautions to be taken when going for tattoos

CDC (Centre from Disease Control) has made the following recommendations for precautions to be taken when going for tattoos. Here are the most important among them:

  1. When going for a tattoo, make sure to choose a clean and hygienic salon.
  2. Make sure that the tattoo artist is using one time use ink refills for preparing your tattoo.
  3. Ensure that the tattoo artist dilutes the ink with sterile distilled water.
  4. Using only filtered or distilled water or even bottled or tap water does not make it sterile (free of organisms).
  5. After your tattoo has healed look out for any rash that might arise on the skin, in and around the tattooed area. In the event of such skin aberrations, contact your doctor immediately.

Tattoo inks and pigments are cosmetics for skin and not drugs

As tattoo inks and pigments come under cosmetics, the FDA can enforce recall on these products in case of an outbreak. However, they cannot enforce a law that makes it imperative for manufacturers to submit data on the safety of the product. This limitation of the cosmetics act is a major hurdle in controlling the outbreak of these infections caused by tattooing on the skin surface.

Never compromise your safety and health when getting a tattoo. Avoid getting a tattoo infection by choosing the right tat shop/artist. You can also use your tattoo design as inspiration for your online brochure printing.


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