Blog | Monday, August 27, 2012

QD: News Every Day--tattoo ink poses dangers, CDC says

Tainted tattoo ink may lead to infection, the CDC announced last week.

Twenty-two cases of nontuberculous mycobacterial infection due to tattoo ink have been reported in New York State, Washington State, Iowa and Colorado in 2011-2012, said a report in last week's MMWR. All cases were found to be related to ink contamination, which can occur during manufacturing or if the ink is diluted with nonsterile water before it's used, the report said. 

An accompanying editorial note stated that the FDA considers tattoo inks cosmetics and they are not specifically required to be sterile. "However, intradermal introduction of nonsterile substances, such as tattoo ink, can pose a health risk and is a public health concern," the editors wrote.

The CDC recommended that ink manufacturers be held to higher product safety standards, including production of sterile inks. It also said tattoo artists should:
  • avoid using products not intended for tattooing; 
  • avoid diluting ink before tattooing, and use only sterile water if dilution is necessary;
  • avoid using nonsterile water to rinse equipment during tattoo placement; and 
  • follow aseptic techniques during tattooing, such as using proper hand hygiene and disposable gloves.
To reduce their risk for infection, the agency said, consumers should:
  • use registered tattoo parlors; 
  • request inks manufactured specifically for tattoos; 
  • ensure tattoo artists use appropriate hygiene; 
  • be aware of that infection could follow tattooing, and seek medical advice for persistent skin problems; and 
  • notify the tattoo artist and FDA's MedWatch program if an adverse event occurs.
The full MMWR report is online.