Tattoo Inks May Cause Health Issues, According To New Study

Tattoo lovers in the U.S. may not like the results of a new study released this week that suggests that the ink used can cause major health issues.

Assistant Professor John Swierk of Binghamton University’s Department of Chemistry led the study published on Feb. 22 in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

The study showed that out of the 54 inks tested, 45 of them, or a stunning 83%, contained unlisted additives or pigments. Some of the additives are known to cause health issues.

“Major, unlisted adulterants include poly(ethylene glycol), propylene glycol, and higher alkanes. Many of the adulterants pose possible allergic or other health risks,” the study reported.

According to Swierk, these pigments stay in the skin. He reported that the study’s main goal is to “empower” tattoo artists and their clients about the products they are using.

“We’re hoping the manufacturers take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their processes, and that artists and clients take this as an opportunity to push for better labeling and manufacturing,” Swierk said in a Binghamton University news release.

This study is the first of its kind to investigate the pigments found in inks sold in the U.S.

Before 2022, tattoos were not regulated by the FDA. It wasn’t until the end of 2022 that Congress passed the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA), allowing the FDA to regulate tattoo inks, including accurate labeling.

Europe had already had stricter regulations placed on tattoo inks. Swierk’s lab plans to study the pigments banned in Europe to determine if they are present in tattoo inks sold on the continent.

Over half of the samples contained polyethylene glycol, which was not listed as an ingredient. The New York Post stated that this chemical can cause kidney failure.

According to the Pew Research Center, about half of adults ages 30 to 49 have tattoos.

Tattoos have become a major part of American culture, from celebrities to working professionals. The majority of the U.S. population has them.

It is still being determined how the results of the study will prevent Americans from getting inked.