Today, I would like to inform you about the controversy surrounding tattoo ink colors, as it has been in the news lately. (For example, in an article published by the French newspaper "Le Monde":
What is this all about?
In fact, in the midst of this crisis, the European Parliament issued a new regulation published on December 15, which sets an effective ban date of January 2023, for two pigments (a type of blue and green) that are found in many colors currently used. The reasons given for this decision are a precautionary principle, a very popular term these days.
The French Consumers Union (U.F.C.) has reminded everyone that they detected substances in the inks that do not comply with the regulations established in the cosmetics industry, and that could potentially be toxic or even carcinogenic. Some media outlets have relayed this information without the nuances, as an alarmist message that might be more salable.
Tattoos and cancer?
To this day, there is no officially or scientifically proven case of cancer caused by a tattoo. Not today, nor even 30 years ago, when the ink composition was even less regulated than it is now. We do not know what testing methods the UFC used, and there is no analytical investigation in the framework of these tests. For these reasons, it is not possible to establish with certainty any link between the potential toxicity of these tattoo inks and the possible adverse effects on the human body, in the short or long term. Thus, it is clear that nobody has ever contracted cancer from getting tattooed.
What about Switzerland?
In Switzerland, tattoo inks are administratively considered as food. Therefore, it is the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs (OSAV) that ensures that tattooists follow the "good work practices" procedures (which can be downloaded here: https://www.blv.admin.ch/dam/blv/fr/dokumente/gebrauchsgegenstaende/kosmetika-schmuck-textilien/arbeitspraxis-tattoostudios.pdf.download.pdf/BPT-directives_tattoo.pdf
It is also them who carry out the ink controls, with samples that are subsequently analyzed in laboratories to ensure their conformity. There is no list of approved tattoo inks, but there is a negative list of ink batches that have not passed the tests, available at this link: https://www.blv.admin.ch/dam/blv/fr/dokumente/gebrauchsgegenstaende/kosmetika-schmuck-textilien/anwendungsverbot-taetowier-farben.pdf.download.pdf/interdiction_d_utilisation_couleurs_de_tatouage_et_PMU.pdf
However, in Switzerland as elsewhere, there is still no study close enough to reality to provide reliable results.
What do dermatologists say?
It is essential to put things into perspective, as dermatologist Nicolas Kluger emphasizes: "A product can be more or less carcinogenic depending on how it is introduced into the body," explains Nicolas Kluger. "The problem with tattoos is that the product is rarely tested on mice by tattooing them. Often, the component is ingested or breathed in. As for studies on humans, we should avoid numerous biases. This should be done with cohorts of tattooed people who have no other cancer risk factors. When we know that 40% of tattooed people smoke, we can see the complexity," he insists...."This regulation may seem very strict to tattoo artists and ink manufacturers when we know that there are carcinogens on the market, like tobacco. Here, we are fighting over blue ink because of a hypothetical cancer risk."
The complete article from which his quote is taken in an article of the 20 minutes, is available here:
What are the risks of getting a tattoo?
When done under good conditions, and with the client respecting the healing process, tattoos are safe! It is better, however, to go to an experienced professional tattooist and avoid those who work at home in doubtful hygienic conditions.
But then, why the desire to prohibit?
Unfortunately, there are still individuals today who do not appreciate tattoos and would like to ban them. It is regrettable to note that every five years, tattoos are attacked and criticized on unfounded scientific grounds. It is also extremely sad that the studies used to justify these attacks often involve torturing animals by forcing them to drink or inhale pigments that do not reflect the reality of how these inks are used.
It should be noted that once the ink is fixed in the skin, the quantities of certain potentially toxic substances fixed in a tattoo are very low. To give an idea, there is as much as in common foods found in commerce, such as when drinking a cup of cocoa, for example.
In reality, tattoos are still misunderstood by those who dictate our laws. Moreover, most of those who try to repress them do not have tattoos themselves. It is even more regrettable to see the efforts made to repress tattoos in the name of health, while the sale of tobacco, alcohol, added sugar, palm oil, and pesticides are allowed!
The National Union of French Tattoo Artists (S.N.A.T.) has made an excellent analysis in a very well-made article, of which I will provide the link here: https://syndicat-national-des-artistes-tatoueurs.assoconnect.com/page/86340-encres
The French magazine "Tatouage Magazine" also released an article on the subject in its latest issue, published on February 24 and available in newsstands.
Do you want to help save tattooing?
There is a French-language petition from the SNAT that relays the Austrian original published on January 16, 2021. The goal is to alert the European Parliament and prevent the prohibition of certain pigments that could have repercussions on our entire profession. Your signature can really make a difference!
These two points of view can be summarized as follows: on one hand, tattoo artists, clients, and family members who are enthusiastic about the tattoos they have been practicing and wearing for years. The majority of professionals are eager to learn, open to dialogue, and want to be able to practice their craft in safe and hygienic conditions with the best possible equipment. Personally, I take my tattooing profession very seriously, and I pay particular attention to the choices of inks I use. It is essential for me to be able to work with beautiful colors safely because my clients, many of my friends, and most of my surroundings are all tattooed!
On the other hand, we have an administration, a state agency that wants to legislate but suffers in the absence of a precise study that takes into account the reality of the process and the real impact on the human body. Their decisions are made somewhat blindly.
In a complex human society, context is super important, and it is essential to maintain dialogue to do things correctly. Those who lead and decide what is allowed must work closely with those who are affected, namely tattoo artists. Otherwise, the decisions made will be arbitrary and have no relation to the public health interests, and will be received as oppression that will favor the clandestine work of a profession that has fought so hard to improve its image. Today more than ever, it is essential that people communicate and work together for the common good, and I hope that Parliament will see reason to lift this ban.