Tattoos: Safer Than Ever or Not So Much?

Kaitlyn Szilagyi, Health Editor

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With increasing acceptance of tattoos in the workplace, an overall acceptance toward tattoos seems to be forming. While individuals have a right to do what they would like with their body, one must consider the risks when thinking of getting ink permanently placed on the body.

To start, anyone considering getting a tattoo should be aware of the fact that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate tattoo inks. Even so, the FDA website acknowledges many tattoo pigments are “industrial-grade colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.” Even Henna ink is only approved for use as a hair dye, not for tattooing.

Some might assume that research and increased awareness and education of the fact that tattoos could cause infections have made tattooing safer. However, this does not seem to be the case.

The Journal of Military & Veteran’s Health published an article in 2010 stating, “Apart from hepatitis (both B and C) a wide range of infections, both viral and bacterial, including HIV-AIDS, are possible contaminants in the tattooing process and may unwittingly be transmitted as life-threatening blood-borne diseases.”

While these risks still exist, there are things consumers can do to be safe. If one is indeed fixed upon the idea of getting tattooed, there are certain red flags to look for and question in preparation.

Consumer Reports’ Orly Avitzur, M.D., published “What to Know Before You Get a Tattoo.” As a medical professional with experience in tattoo removal and the treatment of ink-related infections, her advice is simple.

First, individuals should seek a tattoo parlor and an artist that carries single-use, disposable tattoo kits.

The second thing to remember is to make sure the tattoo parlor in question is properly licensed, and the artist has experience in his or her field.

The use of sterile gloves is significant, same as if visiting the doctor’s office or dentist. If it is possible, watch the artist do a procedure first, to make sure the process is sterile. Pay attention, and be on the lookout for any signs of sloppiness or unsanitary practices.

Be sure to ask where the parlor buys its ink and how it is produced. The effect of metallic inks on the skin can cause infections, allergic reactions, scars, and irritation. Thus it is also important to specifically ask if the inks are nonmetallic.

Last but not least, if even after all this, one does experience a reaction to a new tattoo, or even a few years after getting a tattoo, do not hesitate to contact a physician.

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