Of the serious health concerns pointed out by the agency are allergies and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.
Mercury sulphide in red ink has been linked to dermatitis which causes swelling and soreness. Red, blue, green and purple inks are more likely to cause granulomas – little ridges of bumps on the skin. Black or neutral henna are also claimed to be toxic.
The British National Health Service has warned: “If you see a shop or stall offering to paint black tattoos onto your skin, don’t be tempted to get one. It could leave you scarred for life and put you at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.”
The Mayo Clinic in the US. also warns: tattoo ink can cause allergic reactions and skin infections – not to mention dangerous blood-borne diseases such as tetanus, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
According to a 2015 study, roughly 10% of people who get tattoos develop infections, itching, and other adverse reactions on their skin, which can sometimes last for months.
The FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) has begun to investigate tattoo inks to identify how they break down in the body and the short-term and long-term safety of tattoo inks.
Research has shown that some pigment migrates from the tattoo site to the body’s lymph nodes, whose job it is to filter out disease-causing organisms. Whether this has adverse health consequences or not is still unknown.