homeFriday 19th October 2018

Chemical agency to clean up tattoo ink

Katie Coyne16/11/2017 - 11:39

| comments Comments (0) |
Inks could be making people ill
Inks could be making people ill

Chemicals used in tattoo ink and permanent make-up (PMU) could become restricted across Europe under proposals unveiled by the European Chemicals Agency.

As tattooing and PMU have grown in popularity so too have concerns that the chemicals used in them could be making people ill.

ECHA was asked by the European Commission in summer 2016 to investigate whether EU wide restrictions were needed to make sure tattoo inks were safe in Europe.

Working with the Danish, German, Italian and Norwegian authorities, ECHA has found that controls are needed and it plans to restrict the use and concentrations of around 4,000 substances used in tattoo ink.

Improved labelling and a ban on known hazardous substances are also included.

‘This is further evidence of the need for coherent legislative powers covering tattooing to be introduced across the UK. At the moment we have a patchwork of laws most of which fail to properly protect the public, we need to follow the example of some of our European colleagues who seen to better understand the potential public health risks,’ said Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy.  

There are around 60 million Europeans with tattoos and up to a quarter of 18-35 year olds now have one.

However, substances used in these processes are not currently regulated in the same way that other chemicals that come into close contact with the skin are - such as standard make-up.

Yet it could be argued that tattoos and PMU pose a greater risk of harm as they are injected into the skin and other body parts such as under the tongue and even the eye.

Most of the problems people experience after a tattoo or PMU are skin related, but the pigments in tattoos have been found to migrate to other organs and have been found in the lymph nodes and liver.  

Two proposed options have been put forward by ECHA differing in the levels of concentration of substances used.

ECHA also proposes improved labelling of the ink used in tattoos beyond existing packaging and labelling standards. The additional information proposed includes the intended use of the mixture as tattoo ink, a reference number, and relevant instructions for use. 

The proposals also include banning a small number of chemicals that are already not permitted in cosmetics as well as those substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. Also those chemicals known to cause skin sensitisation, skin corrosion or eye damage are not to be used.

While ECHA said that only a few of these chemicals have been found in tattoo inks they have been included in the proposals to preclude their use in the future.

ECHA proposes a year-long transitional period after the restrictions come into force, to allow the tattoo and PMU industry to conform to this new standard.

The agency report has highlighted a number of substances such as colourants that the industry will find difficult to replace and proposes derogations for these.

A six-month public consultation on the proposed restrictions will launch in mid-December and experts are expected to analyse the information gathered and report back by the end of 2018. The European Commission will then make a draft decision.


EHN Jobs


Subscribe eNewsletter