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Tukes had tattoo and permanent make-up inks tested: eight of them contained substances that are hazardous to health

Mediatiedote 13.11.2019 7.24
Press release

The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) examined the safety of tattoo and permanent make-up inks. Tukes had a total of 20 tattoo and permanent make-up inks tested. Eight of the tested inks contained chemicals that may cause cancer and be toxic for reproduction: various aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or heavy metals. Tukes contacted companies that sell inks and requested that they withdraw any tattoo inks that are hazardous to health.

The inks that Tukes had tested were acquired from Finnish companies, an online store that is based within the EU and another online store that is based outside the EU. Six of the inks that were tested were intended to be used for permanent make-up and 14 were tattoo inks. Tattoo and permanent make-up inks have not previously been tested by authorities in Finland.

It was tested whether the inks contain aromatic amines, PAH compounds, that is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or heavy metals, such as lead or nickel. Several of these substances are classified as being hazardous to health; such substances may cause cancer, cause genetic defects (mutagenic), be toxic for reproduction, that is so-called CMR substances, and substances that sensitise and irritate skin. Based on test results, these substances are known or suspected to cause adverse effects in humans or experimental animals.

In eight products that were tested, substance concentrations exceeded the maximum concentration limits set in the Council of Europe’s recommendation on tattoo and permanent make-up inks. Concentration limits have been set to secure people’s health. The Consumer Safety Act states that a product must not be dangerous to health.

Some of the substances used in tattoo inks were not originally intended to be used for injecting under the skin

Only some of the substances used in tattoo and permanent make-up inks stay in the location of the tattoo and a large share of them find their way to various other parts of the body. Exposure to substances may last for a lifetime.

“Some of the substances used in tattoo inks were not originally intended to be used for injecting into the skin and their safety has not been tested to a great extent for such a purpose. Tests detected 4-methyl-m-phenylenediamine, benzo[a]pyrene, cadmium, lead and nickel, for example.  Hazardous substances in tattoo inks may present a risk to human health. As research data is not sufficient, it is often not possible to set a safe concentration limit,” says Senior Officer Petteri Talasniemi from Tukes.

Sensitising and irritant substances contained in tattoo inks may cause allergic contact dermatitis and other local skin reactions. There is not enough research data available related to the connection between tattoo inks and cancer, which means that there is no certainty about the connection.

“However, we cannot rule out health risks that are caused by substances in inks that may cause cancer or be toxic for reproduction. The substances may increase cancer risk, be toxic for reproduction or they could be otherwise harmful,” says Petteri Talasniemi.

New restrictions to be set for tattoo ink chemicals

A new legislation on tattoo and permanent make-up inks is currently being prepared in the EU. At the moment, there is no specific legislation for tattoo and permanent make-up inks in the EU. According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the CMR substances and sensitising substances in inks cause health risks to humans. In order to reduce risks, ECHA proposes EU-wide restrictions for substances that are used in inks.

The concentrations of hazardous substances in eight products that Tukes had tested also exceeded the maximum concentration limits set by ECHA in its opinion. Since nearly half of the products that were tested exceeded the maximum concentration limits, Tukes will continue to monitor tattoo inks. 

Consider the following before you have a tattoo

  • Check whether the tattoo inks used by the tattoo artist have been tested and whether they are safe.

  • Check the measures with which hygiene is ensured during tattooing. Tattooing requires a high standard of hygiene. Poor hygiene when handling tattoo inks or performing a tattooing operation may expose the individual being tattooed to bacterial or fungal infection, or to viral infections through contamination with blood.

  • Check whether the tattoo artist has the necessary knowledge and competence to make tattoos. Tattooing performed by a private individual at home may present a risk.

  • If your tattoos cause health issues or there are any symptoms that appear unusual, you should contact a health care professional.

The following tattoo ink product titles and lots were detected to contain too high concentrations of aromatic amines, PAH compounds, or heavy metals:

1) Intenze The Alex De Pase Series, Magenta, (Lot SS265)

2) Arte Stylo, Café (LOT  180624)

3) BioTouch micro pigments black, erä no: 30845

4) Mastor permanent make up dark pink M307, MGF:2016.03.12 EXP 2019.03.12

5) Dynamik BLK LOT: 12026230

6) Bloodline all purpose black exp:01/22

7) Color King Black

8) Color King Orange

The test results of inks that Tukes had tested are lot-specific.

More information:

Market surveillance: Senior Officer Jussi Ollikka tel. 0295 052 086

Chemical-related risks: Senior Officer Petteri Talasniemi tel. 0295 052 104

E-mail addresses are of the form: firstname.lastname (at) tukes.fi.

Pictures of tattoo inks that contain great concentrations of substances that are hazardous to health

Tattoo inks test results

The Council of Europe’s recommendations on the concentrations of tattoo and permanent make-up inks

The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) statement on the health risks of tattoo inks

Information about the safety of tattoo inks on Tukes website

Information about the safety of tattooing services on Tukes website

Information about tattoo inks on the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) website