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What Are The Health Dangers of Tattoos


Maybe you love them. Maybe you hate them.

Maybe you don’t care.

But before you get a tattoo, it’s only sensible to first consider the health consequences.

Anytime your skin is penetrated, that’s a health risk. No matter how fashionable, cool, sexy or hip – it’s a risk.

True, you’re not alone. Tattoo popularity has greatly increased in the past few decades. About 38% of those aged 18-29 now have at least one tattoo. So do one in three of GenXers. It’s an over $1 billion business.



As someone who lived through the AIDS scare of the 1980’s, it’s difficult to understand why people would voluntarily let needles penetrate their skin without an important medical benefit.

Granted, there’re now medicines to control AIDS, but it’s still a dangerous disease. And re-used needles that are improperly sterilized can also spread hepatitis B and C, staph and herpes, as well as other infections.

Therefore, nobody should give themselves or friends do-it-yourself tattoos. Make sure any tattoo parlor you go to is licensed and takes all precautions to use only fully sterilized needles. If you have any doubts, stay away.

A tattoo is a wound. It can allow microorganisms to infect you. The infection may be local, or it may spread to other parts of your body.

The wound can bleed, and it does hurt. Those are warning signs.



The needle may be properly sterilized, but some people have allergic reactions to the ink.

Technically, tattoo ink is regulated by the FDA, but only as cosmetics. Therefore, the FDA doesn’t approve the ingredients that go into tattoo ink. According to the FDA, it’s found tattoo inks that are “industrial strength” colors.

If you live in California, Proposition 65 requires tattoo parlors to warn customers the inks contain heavy metals that may cause cancer.

The FDA has had seven voluntary recalls of tattoo ink since 2004. In one case, 19 people contracted serious infections from contaminated ink before it was recalled.

Also, microorganisms may contaminate the ink itself. That’s according to a safety advisory issued by the US Food and Drug Administration in May 2019.

Thanks to being injected into your skin’s second layer, the dermis, those microorganisms can cause infections and scarring.


Some tattoo pigments contain toxic heavy metals, including:

* Mercury

* Cadmium

* Lead

* Nickel

* Cobolt

* Chromium

* Vanadium

* Antimony

Some of the above have been classified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The levels of those heavy metals are far higher in tattoo inks than allowed in American drinking water. If you’re one of those people who buy lots of bottled water because you’re afraid to drink ordinary tap water – you should avoid tattoos.

Some pigments used in tattoos are azo pigments. They’re similar to dyes used to color clothing and leather. Some of them may also be carcinogenic or damaging to your DNA.

Over time, these toxins leach from your skin into your bloodstream, where they can spread to any part of your body.


Ink Carrier Solution

Tattoo ink is liquid thanks to its carrier solution, but that’s not plain water. They may include:

* Methanol

* Rubbing alcohol

* Antifreeze

* Detergent

* Formaldehyde

You probably wouldn’t knowingly put a cosmetic containing antifreeze ON your skin. So why would you put it IN your skin?


The Spread of Toxins

In one study of mice given tattoos on their backs, researchers found 32% of the ink had leached away from the original site, deeper into their bodies – after just 42 days.

Your lymphatic system is a vital part of your immune system. That’s why the lymph nodes on each side of your throat swell up when you have a bad infection. 

The toxic substances leached from tattoos can build up in your lymph nodes. A study of the lymph nodes in deceased people who had tattoos found accumulation of toxic dyes and metals in the lymph nodes.

This buildup of toxins in the strategic lymph nodes can damage your immune system, reducing your ability to fight back against all bacterial and viral infections.

Some evidence says these toxins can also wind up in your liver, one of the most complex and important organs of your body.


Chronic Inflammation

The major condition associated with all the common noninfectious diseases is chronic inflammation. It’s associated with heart disease, cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and just about every painful condition ending with “itis.”

Chronic inflammation is a complex problem with many causes in modern lifestyles, but tattoos don’t help.

Preclinical studies have shown ink nanoparticles cause chronic inflammation. And carbon black, the most common ink found in tattoos, is associated with high levels of these nanoparticles.


Cancer Risk

In 2018, a review of medical studies found 64 cases of skin cancer associated with tattoos.

In 2019, researchers exposed animal breast cancer cells to tattoo ink nanoparticles. This greatly increased the size of the tumors and the ability of cancer cells to spread through their bodies.


Getting Rid of Tattoos

You can use a laser to break up the pigment into smaller sizes, so they leave the skin.

It’s possible this increases the amount of heavy metal nanoparticles in your lymph nodes, liver and blood.

Plus, the process further damages your skin.

And, it should be clear, lasers cannot touch the heavy metal nanoparticles that have already leached away from your skin and into your lymph nodes.

You can break up the picture in your skin, but you can’t remove the toxins from your body.

Think carefully before allowing heavy metal and other toxins to be injected deep within your skin.