Tattoos: A High Risk for Art


Tattoo art has long been culturally associated with high risk people who live life dangerously. Now, with the new warning from the FDA, the danger might lie within the ink and not the person. White and Blue Lion Inc., a company based in California, recalled its in-home tattoo kit last month. Testing had confirmed that some unopened bottles were contaminated with a bacterial infection. Already there has been one case of skin infection linked to the company’s ink.

According to The Harris Poll of 2012, one in five US adults has a tattoo. The estimate is presumed to be even higher now as the poll showed a continuous rise in tattoos over the years. This puts a large number of tattooed Americans at high risk of contracting an infection from their art. When ink is contaminated with bacteria it can spread through the bloodstream through sepsis. The result of this can include symptoms such as fever, swelling, shaking chills, discharge, redness and pain at the site of the tattoo.

The FDA suggests that those buying ink should check bottle labels for manufacturers and their location. These guidelines may help, but the fear is that many consumers and parlors may have already been using the ink since the recall in July. White and Blue Lion Inc. is just one company of the many others that may have also released contaminated ink. The fact that people are not experiencing symptoms now does not mean they are safe. Although infections sometimes show up immediately after application, symptoms can actually take long periods of time to arise, possibly years.

Tattoo culture knows, however, that there is always a risk of something going wrong when getting tattoos. Respected parlors do their best to keep their workspace hygienic. This lowers the possibility of a costumer getting infected by unsanitary conditions. The superbug MRSA, hepatitis and staph infections have been most commonly associated with tattoo art. To compete, parlors have to provide quality service and artists, but also provide a clean setting for those who are concerned about the risk of possible infection.

State to state, the safety regulations for tattoo parlors differ. In some places, the safety of costumers may not be regulated at all. The FDA warning stated that “Depending on where you are, it’s possible no one is checking to make sure the artist is following safe practices.” Even so, ink from permanent tattoos is not the only type of ink concerning officials.

Temporary skin art also poses a threat, especially to kids on vacation with their families. Earlier this year, the FDA gave warning about black henna, which was commonly being administerd on the beach and boardwalk. The substance is made from red henna that is mixed with other chemicals to get its desired look. Those additional chemicals have the ability to cause dangerous skin reactions.

Tattooing has been with mankind from ancient days. Each culture and generation has its own story on why and how it was used. Tattoos are considered high art to some, despite the high risk factor they may entail. Polls indicate that 86 percent of those who have a tattoo, did not regret getting it. So although the tattoo community faces challenges, they will most likely continue to transform the body into a work of art.

By Kamille Dawkins


CBS News
Maine News
Harris Interactive

One Response to "Tattoos: A High Risk for Art"

  1. Chelbot   August 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    One person got an infection and you’re calling it high risk? Here’s a thought: DON’T GET TATTOOED BY SOMEONE WITH AN IN-HOME TATTOO KIT.


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