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Is tattoo ink safe?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Millions of Americans have decorated their bodies with tattoos. And other than the risk of hepatitis and other infectious diseases, most people think that tattoos are harmless.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate tattoo pigments. Those pigments were originally developed to color paint and industrial products, and they've actually never been tested in humans for safety. It turns out that tattoo pigments contain toxic metals like lead, cadmium and mercury.  And worse, they contain some really bad chemicals like phenol and toluene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons derived from petroleum that are often carcinogenic. Over the last decade, doctors have started seeing skin cancers, particularly squamous cell carcinomas, arising from tattooed skin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.