By the way, he’s showing really good squat form! I’m sure he’s adding a joke or comment as he demonstrates, too.
Since, he is such a icon in the fitness world and is known for living such a healthy life, I got to wondering about the health side of tattoos.
Now, before I go into the rest of this post, I will confess I’m not a tattoo kind of gal. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the expression and, honestly, the bravery involved in getting something that permanent and painful placed on the body. I’m afraid I just don’t have what it takes to commit to either aspect of a tattoo, so to you out there that do, I raise a glass.
That being said, I get on with the rest of this post.
I know the number of tattoos is rising all around the world. A trend that started growing in America and Europe in the early ’90s, tattooing soon became so popular that 36% of Americans aged 25-29 had at least one body tattoo by 2003. The numbers have undoubtedly risen since then and now tattoos are pretty much in the mainstream. The media has even jumped on the bandwagon with reality TV shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink, and Inked on A&E. Of course there are also the magazine photos of celebs sporting their tattoes, from David Beckham to Angelina Jolie.
So exactly what goes into a tattoo that goes directly into the skin and the body?
Many of today’s tattoos contain an unknown conglomeration of metallic salts (oxides, sulphides, selenides), organic dyes or plastics suspended in a carrier solution for consistency of application. In the European Commission’s report on the risks of tattooing, they note that close to 40% of organic colorants used in permanent tattoos in Europe are not even approved for use on the skin as a cosmetic ingredient and just under 20% of the colorants studied contained a carcinogenic aromatic amine. Many of the chemicals found were originally intended for use in writing and printer inks, as well as automobile paints. These inks are injected deep enough into the skin that often tattoos will not even be destroyed by severe burns.
In America, the FDA regulates some of the ingredients in cosmetics worn on the skin, and vitamins, drugs and food additives ingested into the body, but it does not regulate these toxic inks we put under our skin. Their official stance:
“Because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.“6
The FDA also does not require ingredient disclosure on the inks—they are considered proprietary (trade secrets)—and so tattoo inks may contain any chemical, including those known to be mutagenic (capable of causing mutations), teratogenic (capable of causing birth defects), and carcinogenic (capable of causing cancer), or involved in other biochemical reactions in the body that might take decades to appear. Risks cited are infection, removal problems, allergic reactions, granulomas, keloid formation, and MRI complications. The job of testing and legislating the use of tattoo pigments in permanent cosmetics is left to the state. In California, specific ingredients are prohibited and the state will even legally pursue companies who fail to disclose tattoo pigment ingredients to the consumer. They recently brought suit against nine pigment and ink manufacturers for inadequate labeling.
I think therein lies the problem. Without full disclosure of ingredients, it is impossible to know for sure what is in tattoo ink. Added to this, each color and each brand of ink has completely different ingredients, according to a 2005 study out of Northern Arizona University. The carrier solution itself might contain harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, detergents, or formaldehyde and other highly toxic aldehydes.
Allergic reactions have occurred with some of the metals put into tattoo inks, nickel being one of the most common metal allergies. Others have reacted to the mercury in red cinnabar, to cobalt blue, and to cadmium sulfite when used as a yellow pigment. Some inks were found to have high levels of lead, some contained lithium, and the blue inks were full of copper. Allergic reactions may occur infrequently with permanent tattoos, but the long-term health effects are still unknown due to the lack of regulation, testing, and long-term studies.
Henna tattoos also pose certain risks and have been very problematic. Henna tattoos that contain the dark brown dye para-phenylenediamine (PPD) can cause a delayed allergic reaction and subsequent PPD hyper-sensitization that may permanently prohibit one from using sulfa drugs, PABA sunscreens, benzocaine and other anesthetics, and hair dyes. Analysis of henna dye used on persons who reported allergic reactions has shown the presence of toxic chemicals from hair and textile dyes, in addition to PPD.
Other health risks.
In addition to allergic reactions and the unknown long-term health effects from the metal salts and carrier solutions that make up tattoo inks, there are other health risks involved. Skin infections, psoriasis, dermatitis and other chronic skin conditions, and tumors (both benign, and malignant) have all been associated with tattoos. Due to the use of needles in tattoo application, there is also the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as tetanus, herpes simplex virus, staph, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, and even Syphilis. And those with tattoos might not be able to get a life-saving MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test if they need one—some hospitals and testing locations will refuse to do an MRI on people with body tattoos due to the metal particles in the tattoo, which may cause a burning pain during the test.
If you plan on having your tattoo removed, you should be aware that some of the pigments used are phototoxic and may break down into toxic chemicals in the body when removed with UV light or laser, common techniques used in tattoo removal. The toxic end-products eventually wind up in the kidneys and liver, adding to more toxins burdening the body.
So it seems the best advice when thinking about getting a tattoo is to do your homework. Since there is no federal regulation to protect you from unqualified tattoo artists, unhygienic tools and application methods, and highly toxic inks, you have to do your research and consider the choice, the environment, and possible health hazards.
In a nutshell the main health risks to be aware of are:
Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
Skin infections. A skin infection — which might cause redness, swelling, pain and a pus-like drainage — is possible after tattooing.
Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing can also lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image — such as when a person who has permanent eyeliner has an MRI of the eye.
Since we really don’t know the long term affects, I’ve now given you just one more thing to worry about. . . .
For credit and more information look here.
In reading and writing about tattoos I couldn’t help but include the following photos for your enjoyment!
Have a fun day!