European Union regulators will soon begin an investigation of the chemicals that make up tattoo ink in the wake of concerns from health experts, scientists and even some tattoo artists.
Chemical Watch reports that the European Commission recently submitted a formal request for the probe by the European Chemicals Agency, which is expected to respond with any recommendations within one year.
Some of the metals, oils and other materials in tattoo inks can trigger skin irritation or allergic reactions; some are considered potential carcinogens.
A report in Chemical & Engineering News noted that a majority of the colorants in tattoo inks are made of organic pigments called azo pigments; when those substances come into contact with bacteria or UV light, they can degrade into possible carcinogens called primary aromatic amines.
An independent EU research agency also said that chemicals can be repurposed from other industries and suggested that consumers should be aware of the chemical risks of tattoos just as much as the possible infection risks.
Although many EU member states enacted bans on some tattoo ink chemicals, the collective lacks broad restrictions.
“There are certainly really good producers of ink," Swedish tattoo parlor owner Jens Bergström told C&EN. "But some of the inks on the market weren’t intended for tattooing. They just put them in a fancy bottle, put a dragon on the bottle and write ‘tattoo’ on it."