Tattoo ink used to create designs for millions of Brits could increase the chances of getting cancer and should be banned according to research.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has warned that tattoo inks are potentially toxic, according to a study which could see many of them banned.
According to the report the inks can cause skin problems, from allergic reactions and painful itching that can last for years to an increased risk of cancer.
The Agency is about to publish a list of suspect chemicals widely used in tattoo inks, which is likely to lead to their being banned across the European Union with the UK likely to follow suit if this happens post Brexit.
Red tattoo inks were described as the most dangerous but blue, green and black were also implicated.The agency said: “Many reports show concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing.
“The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxic effects.”The warning comes as Britain’s enthusiasm for tattoos is at an all-time high with a fifth of Brits sporting a design and one in three young adults deciding to get inked.
The surge in popularity of tattoos is partly linked to their popularity among celebrities such as David Beckham who currently has 40 designs across his body and the late Amy Winehouse who had 14.
Veteran actress Dame Judi Dench has even joined the trend revealing last month that she had the Latin phrase “Carpe diem” (seize the day) tattooed on her wrist for her 81st birthday.
The ECHA began looking into tatto ink because of reports of a number of health problems associated with the practice.
There have been growing concerns about the status of tattoo inks, which, despite being injected into the body, are not subject to regulations applying to drugs or even food.Rick Stevens, president of the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union in the UK, who has five tattoo parlours in Kent, said the industry welcomed these findings.
He said there had been a surge of cheap Chinese tattoo inks of dubious quality.
Mr Stevens added: “There is no system for checking what is in these inks.”
Public Health England welcomed the ECHA’s research and said it would implement the findings here.
A study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre found that Britain’s regulation of tattooists and the inks they use is among the laxest in Europe.
UK tattooists are not obliged to wear gloves, even though clients often bleed. They are also allowed to reuse needles on multiple clients, creating a clear risk of cross-infection.
It added that in the UK “there are no nationally recognised training courses, standards for practice, or arrangements for monitoring competence”.