Little is currently known about the effect of colour pigments in the body. However, there is now scientific evidence that colour pigments from tattoos can travel into the lymphatic system.
These pigments can damage health due to their chemical structure or through impurities such as metals. Once they get into the lymphatic system, they reach other organs where harmful metabolic waste products can be generated.
However, there is not enough data to assess the overall health risk.
Despite this uncertainty, tattoos remain as popular as before. According to a recent survey of 1,000 people, many were aware that tattoos can cause infections and trigger allergies, and that it s inadvisable to get a tattoo while pregnant. Nevertheless, nearly half of those surveyed believed that the health risk posed by tattoos is small; as many as 87 per cent of people with tattoos share this opinion. Roughly one third of those surveyed believe that the ingredients in tattoo inks remain entirely at the tattoo site.
But the fact is that tattoo inks are not subject to approval, like medications are, although they end up in the body. The manufacturers are solely responsible for the safety of their inks.
Only the use of substances already proven to be harmful to health is forbidden. These are listed in the German tattoo ink regulation. What’s missing is a positive list of inks that do not present a health risk. This would be the only way of giving consumers the opportunity to select safe tattoo inks.
BfR Verbrauchermonitor: Spezial Tattoos. Juli 2018.
BfR-Webseite: Fragen und Antworten zu Tätowierungsmitteln. Oktober 2017.
BfR-Pressemitteilung: Tattoos im Trend – Die Hälfte der Deutschen hält Tätowiermittel für sicher. 19.11.2018.