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Some Tattoo Inks Can Cause Infections, FDA Warns

Some tattoo inks can cause lifelong skin and health issues.

Some tattoo inks can cause lifelong skin and health issues. Tattoos are a favorite form of self-expression, with some 45 million Americans sporting ink, including 30 percent of college graduates. But before you decide to get tatted up, as they say, it’s important to know the risks, personal injury attorneys say. Officials with the US Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning to tattoo parlors, their customers and those buying at-home tattoo kits that some tattoo ink may be unsafe.


Earlier this year, California’s White and Blue Lion, Inc. issued a massive recall of its tattoo inks, needles and kits after testing confirmed pathogenic bacterial contamination in unopened bottles of ink. Company and FDA officials warn that use of recalled tattoo kits may cause bacterial infection and can lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition. Sepsis carries bacteria through the blood stream and is marked by a range of symptoms including fever, shaking, chills and sweats. It’s particularly dangerous for anyone with a pre-existing heart or circulatory condition. At least one case of sepsis has been linked to the recalled products.


The risk isn’t limited to DIY tattoo artists. Because regulation of professional tattoo artists and parlors varies from state to state, some states can be less vigilant about protecting consumers than others. As a result, tattoo clients can be at risk for developing hepatitis, HIV, staph infections and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections, due to dirty needles and unsanitary environments. It wasn’t until 2012 that Florida implemented legislation requiring licensure of tattoo artists and establishing standards of hygiene, training and supervision similar to those required at body-piercing studios and nail salons.


Those temporary tattoos popular with teens, kids and even adults not quite ready to undergo permanent ink, also pose risks. That’s because they often contain ink marketed as “black henna” and typically made with black hair dye containing para-phenylenediamine. Because of the name, consumers often assume that black henna is simply a variation of the natural red henna. Truth is, there’s no such thing as natural black henna and chemicals used in making it can cause painful and potentially dangerous skin infections. Symptoms can include blistering, open sores, loss of pigmentation, permanent scarring and lifelong health issues including persistent sensitivity to sunlight and certain chemicals, as well as allergic reactions. Because of the risks, the FDA has approved henna for use in hair dye only, not in products intended for direct application to the skin.


Before getting a tattoo, be sure to confirm licensure of the artist and check out any complaints that may have been filed with the Florida Department of Health concerning the parlor you’re considering. If you have suffered skin irritations or other health issues that you believe may be associated with your tattoo, get medical attention, then contact a personal injury attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can help you secure fair compensation for your related injuries and costs. Reach us at 800-251-1111.