Some tattoo ink could be carcinogenic, warns health body

Research should be undertaken into tattoo ink as some of it could be carcinogenic, say the food safety body NVWA and the public health institute RIVM.

According to recent research by German dermatologist Wolfgang Bäumer, nearly all black tattoo ink contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), the same carcinogenic found in car exhaust gases.
Ink containing PAH colouring agents were banned in the Netherlands in 2004 when tests at tattoo parlours found 20% were using ink with the banned substance. By 2007, the figure had dropped to 5%, the NVWA’s Roel Vincken told Nos television.


However, Hans Dijkstra of the Tattooers Union said the NVWA only looked at officially registered tattoo parlours. He estimates there are 1,000 unregistered tattoo artists who were not checked.
Whether using ink containing banned substances has a long-term risk is difficult to say, says Paul Janssen from the RIVM. ‘We need a large-scale investigation into the long-term effects,’ he told Nos.
‘The consumer expects tattooing to be safe, but I would advise my own children not to have a tattoo,’ he said.

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