Is a tattoo right for you? Facing the dangers of tattooing

manThe fact that tattoo removal has been one of our most frequently read blog topics indicates that many readers may be sorry they decided to get a tattoo. And those who may be considering getting inked might want to think very carefully and weigh the consequences before doing so.

While a Harris poll of 2,016 adults surveyed online between January 16 and 23, 2012, found that only 14 percent of those who had gotten a tattoo regretted it later, it was the attitudes of people without tattoos, who were also among those interviewed, that might help sway your decision.

Here’s what they think:

  • At least two respondents out of five said that people with tattoos are less attractive (45%) or sexy (39%).
  • One-quarter said that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27%), healthy (25%) or spiritual (25%).
  • Half of those without a tattoo said that people with tattoos are more rebellious (50%).

Perhaps even more important than attitudes and regrets, however, is a range of health hazards that may be caused by tattooing.

Among the potential risks are: 

Carcinogenic toxins – Perhaps the most frightening health risk of getting tattooed is the toxins that are evident in the tattoo ink. Although some of the color additives used to make tattoo ink have been approved for use in cosmetics, none have been approved for injection into the skin. Some tattoo pigments, in fact, are industrial grade colors used in printers’ ink and automobile paint.

Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz are more specific. They say that blue ink contains cobalt and aluminum, and red ink can include cadmium and mercury sulfide. Even black ink, considered to be the safest color of all, may contain such carcinogens as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzo(a)prene.

Infections – While most states have regulations governing tattoo artists, many people may still get tattoos from someone unlicensed, either in a commercial business or in prison, and they might not sterilize the tools they use. The use of dirty needles can cause such infections as HIV and hepatitis.

Serious illness – In spring 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported an outbreak of infections among those who had gotten tattooed in at least four states over the previous half year. These serious illnesses were the result of contamination of the tattoo pigment by nontuberculous Micobacteria, a bacteria that can cause joint infection, lung disease, eye problems or other infections.

Allergies – Some people have reported allergic reactions to various ink pigments.

Granulomas – These small bumps can form on the site of the tattoo in reaction to the pigment inserted into the skin.

To tattoo or not to tattoo? The choice is yours, but consider the consequences. And as the FDA recommends in its public health safety campaign, “Think Before You Ink.”


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Posted in Tattoos.

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