Toxic Tattoo Ink Particles May Affect Long-Term Health: Study

Nanoparticles in tattoo ink may travel through the body and potentially cause long-term health problems, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports on September 12, German researchers warn that the minuscule particules from heavy metals in tattoo ink may accumulate in the lymph nodes.

While the exact impact on health from tattoo ink remains unknown, researchers warn that individuals considering getting inked should be aware that there may be long-term side effects.

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While some tattoo risks are well known, such as allergic reactions and skin infections, there has been no research focusing on long-term side effects.

In this latest study, researchers looked at skin and lymphatic tissue samples from human corpses with tattoos. Using x-ray fluorescent technology, the researchers discovered heavy metals from the tattoo ink had accumulated in the lymph nodes.

Nanoparticles smaller than 100 nanometers in diameter of titanium dioxide and other heavy metals were found in the lymph nodes. This is especially concerning, according to the study authors, because particles that small can behave differently in the body and pose different health threats.

Titanium dioxide is linked to certain health problems, like delayed healing, skin elevation and itching. However, nanoparticles may pose a more serious threat.

Prior research has shown pigments and enlarged lymph nodes frequently occur in people with tattoos. This is the first study to show heavy metals and nanoparticles accumulate in the lymph nodes as well.

It is understandable that nanoparticles accumulate in the lymph nodes. The lymphatic system’s job is to remove toxins and impurities from the body.

Not only were titanium dioxide nanoparticles collected in the lymph nodes, but also other chemicals and heavy metals. Researchers also noted ultrastructural changes of the tissue adjacent to tattoo particles, indicating alterations of biomolecules, which likely contribute to inflammation and other side effects.

The study cannot link any specific health condition, such as cancer, to tattoo ink. More focused studies would be needed to identify any such link. However, it shows the particles, which can be toxic to humans, penetrate the skin and travel through the body, raising concerns about impact on long term health.

Additionally, tattoo ink is not currently regulated. The ingredients have never been approved for injection into the skin and no regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, have deemed the ingredients “safe.”

Overall, there is a lack of data to indicate all the known side effects, researchers warn. As a result, individuals considering a tattoo should know that there may be risks associated with the ink that could impact their long term health.


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