Want a Tattoo? – Read this first

Los Angeles Area Alternative Doctor

Your consideration for getting a tattoo go beyond image and graphic selection.  Getting a tattoo puts you at risk for acquiring hepatitis C from poorly sanitized tattoo needles.

More importantly, tattoo ink contains a number of potentially carcinogenic substances including cobalt, cadmium, mercury, titanium, and iron oxide.  These substances will remain in your body even if you later decide to have the tattoo removed via laser treatments.

You need to ask yourself, do I want to take this risk?  The question becomes even more appropriate if you are planning on getting pregnant.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

NTM infection

  1. While one may get sick from a poorly inked tattoo done in an unhygienic parlor, I think the article exaggerates the risk. I’ve myself got two tattoos from […] and got them done from a reputed local parlor. Have never had any health issue with them. Be careful and you should be fine.

  2. The post does not exaggerate, but in fact, understates. The risk goes beyond unhygienic parlors. As mentioned above, all ink is unregulated and will contain heavy metals and other toxic substances. In addition many of the ingredients can be carcinogenic. Many of the inks come already contaminated to the parlor (even though the parlor itself may be using universal precautions.)

    I am posting some other links from reputable sources to corroborate my point of view. For many, there will be no health issue, like yourself; however, anyone considering a tattoo should weigh the risks before making a final decision. They may not be as lucky and wished that they had been better informed. That is my intention – to inform.

    New England Journal of Medicine , Tattoo Ink–Related Infections — Awareness, Diagnosis, Reporting, and Prevention:

    Even if a person receives a tattoo at a tattoo parlor that maintains the highest standards of hygienic practice, there remains a risk of infection from the use of contaminated ink.

    Nontuberculous mycobacterial infections may be difficult to diagnose and treat.

    Moreover, complications such as coinfection with pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus may pose a further challenge to a patient’s full recovery.

    CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Hidden Dangers of Getting Inked

    Concentrated tattoo inks may be made from products that were never intended to be used for tattoos. Tattoo ink manufacturers may use products such as calligraphy ink, drawing ink, or even printer ink to make the products eventually used for tattooing. These manufacturers often sell their products online, and while their states may require them to hold a business license, there is no regulation or oversight of the product itself.

    Any kind of non-sterile water can contaminate the ink with potentially harmful germs, which can lead to infections in those tattooed with the ink.

    NTM skin infections are very hard to treat, and often require 4-6 months of treatment with drugs that can cause serious side effects. While some people’s infections may resolve just from treatment with medication, others may require multiple surgeries to remove infected tissue and may lead to significant scarring.

    Scientific American

    It is true that some red inks used for permanent tattoos contain mercury, while other reds may contain different heavy metals like cadmium or iron oxide. These metals—which give the tattoo its “permanence” in skin—have been known to cause allergic reactions, eczema and scarring and can also cause sensitivity to mercury from other sources like dental fillings or consuming some fish. While red causes the most problems, most other colors of standard tattoo ink are also derived from heavy metals (including lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel and arsenic) and can cause skin reactions in some people.


    One of the chemicals found in black tattoo inks – benzo(a)pyrene – is a potent carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal tests. Dermatologists have published reports in medical journals on rare, perhaps coincidental cases where melanomas and other malignant tumors are found in tattoos.

    FDA Consumer Warning for Tattoos

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