Professional tattoo artist makes a tattoo on a young girl's hand.

The popular fad of covering yourself in ink may have serious repercussions people may not consider before doing it. Various colors contain heavy metals; Mercury, lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel and arsenic, to name just a few.

Ironic to me, the high % of trainers and online vegan health gurus covered in ink telling people to avoid diet sodas and gluten and such…As always, the dose makes the poison, so a few small tattoos unlikely to be a major issue, covering large areas of your body in ink, may be another matter.

Tattoos on a woman's arm

The safest color, as it applies to heavy metals, is black apparently. More data is needed to establish exactly what risks, if any exist in terms of heavy metals leaching slowly from the tattoo into general circulation and many variables exist. My recs: If you have a lot of tattoos, I’d recommend having blood levels of heavy metals tested periodically.

Although some will make a big deal out of the potential for infections (e.g, hepatitis B or C, tuberculosis, mycobacterium, syphilis, malaria, HIV or even leprosy) that’s over stated. If done at a reputable place that uses best practices to reduce risk of infections, pretty much a non issue.

Remember, pigments used in tattoos are not regulated and some chems found in tattoo ink also be found on the EPA’s carcinogen list as well as a report via the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre:

“...the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, also identified heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and nickel, preservatives, organic compounds, bacteria, and other potentially harmful substances in the inks.

It calls for a thorough review of tattoo inks in use throughout the European Union, and it highlights the need for strict regulation of the inks, which are also used for permanent makeup.

After the report was released, the organization asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to look further into tattoo ink safety.

‘Tattoo inks and permanent make up (PMU) may contain hazardous substances — for example, substances that cause cancer, genetic mutations, toxic effects on reproduction, allergies or other adverse effects on health,’ an ECHA statement reads.”

The FDA has come to similar conclusions. End of the day, there’s very little research looking at the systemic effects of tattoos on the human body and minimal regulations on the inks used, so at least do some research before jumping on the bandwagon and caveat emptor. Furthermore, a recent study finds some inks accumulate in the lymph nodes. While the risks of the inks and other potentially toxic chemicals discovered in the lymph nodes is unclear at this time, it’s something people should be aware of and consider before covering large areas of their body in tattoos, especially if they have any pre existing medical conditions.

Picture of Rich Piana
Picture of the late Rich Piana

Bottom Line: The above info would not prevent me from getting a small – medium tattoo (though I have none) but would give me serious pause from doing what I see out there today…


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