Toxic nanoparticles from tattoo ink can travel inside body

Toxins in tattoos may stay in your body for life new research suggests
Toxins in tattoos may stay in your body for life new research suggests
Author

13 September, 2017

If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, you already know it's important to check out the condition of the shop, but a new study suggests you should also be asking about the chemicals used in the ink.

Pigments from tattoo that travel to the lymph nodes in a nano form implies that they may not have the same behaviour as the particles at a micro level.

Laser removal breaks these particles down into small enough pieces so your body can dispose of them.

Tattoo ink contains a wide range of organic and inorganic pigments, along with preservatives and contaminants such as nickel, chromium, manganese and cobalt.

They say it's just another way to help you make a better decision before you get that work of art.

"When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlour where they use sterile needles that haven't been used previously", said researcher Hiram Castillo.

Besides carbon black, the second most common ingredient used in tattoo inks is titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment usually applied to create certain shades when mixed with colorant, researchers said. "No one checks the chemical composition of the colours, but our study shows that maybe they should". This is the way that the body can clean up the site of the tattoo, described Bernhard Hesse, one of the co-authors of the study.

Still, the presence of such nanoparticles raises questions about the potential health consequences of tattoos, the researchers argue.

Researchers at European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Germany used X-ray fluorescence measurements on ID21 which allowed them to locate titanium dioxide at the micro and nano range in the skin and the lymphatic environment. And this poses a problem because we do not know as these substances react.

The team tracked micro- and nanoparticles in the skin and lymph nodes.

Although particles of varying sizes are found in the skin, only highly microscopic titanium dioxide fragments are present in the nodes, which may cause them to become swollen.

Tattoos aren't all bad, though.

The titanium dioxide is not only used in candies and biscuits. However, the authors noted in their paper that "most tattooed individuals including the donors analyzed here do not suffer from chronic inflammation". Delayed healing, along with skin elevation and itching, are often associated with white tattoos, and by outcome with the use of TiO2.


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