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Certain tattoo inks could be banned over cancer-causing chemical fears

The i logo The i 10/08/2018 Helen Johnson

© Provided by Getty As the popularity of body art increases - with recent surveys suggesting as many as one third of 25 to 39 year olds in the UK have tattoos - concerns over the dangers of tattoo ink continue.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are further researching tattoo inks and permanent make-up which could "contain hazardous substances that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutations, toxic effects on reproduction, allergies or other adverse effects in animals or humans".

New laws and limits

A proposal to implement tighter limits on the use of around 4,000 chemicals is now expected to be brought to a vote among EU member states by the middle of next year.

The UK will not have a say, as it is set to leave the EU in March 2019, but this law would apply to the UK during the 21 month-long transition period.

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However, this law may not survive Brexit if Britain diverge from the EU acquis, which is the body of law made in Brussels.

The ECHA’s report found a particular link between red ink and dermatitis, due to the product’s high content of mercury sulphide (Photo: Shutterstock)

In 2013, EU member states backed a resolution which urged national governments to impose tighter controls on the chemicals used by tattoo parlours.

The UK was not one of the seven countries to incorporate the guidelines into domestic law.

What are the real risks?

The ECHA’s report found a particular link between red ink and dermatitis, due to the product’s high content of mercury sulphide.

© Provided by Getty Red, blue, green and purple inks were all said to be more likely to cause small ridges in the skin, called granulomas.

Although no direct link has been made between tattoos and the development of cancer, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) reported in October that it was "well known that tattoo inks can and do contain substances of concern such as identified carcinogens and skin sensitisers".

"The composition of some tattoo inks and permanent makeup raises concerns for public health," said Mark Blainey, a senior scientific officer at the ECHA.

"The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and the fact that some of the substances might cause cancer, change DNA or be harmful to human reproduction."

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