Tattoo parlors brace for new EU ink bans

person in black long sleeve shirt with tattoo on right arm
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Starting on January 4, the use of over 4,000 hazardous, but previously unregulated, chemicals in tattoo ink will be banned under the bloc’s flagship chemicals legislation REACH. That includes several ingredients like isopropanol alcohol, which ink suppliers say features in most pigments used in tattoos on the market.

European tattoo artists worry the new rules could kill off their business. Manufacturers, they say, have been slow to come up with replacement inks, which they also worry might not have the same vibrancy and staying power.

Tattooists in France, Germany and beyond are up in arms. One EU-wide petition titled “Save the Pigments” complains about an upcoming ban on two specific ink colors, garnering some 170,000 signatures so far.

The ban would “negatively affect the economic competitiveness of European tattooists and pigmenters vis-à-vis providers outside the EU,” it argues, and “promote the revival of so-called backyard tattooists, i.e. illegal providers, as well as the carrying out of commercially unreported practices.”

Scientific research so far on whether tattoo inks cause cancer remains inconclusive. Some of the substances found in tattoo inks have been proven to be carcinogenic, but a direct link has yet to be established. One review from 2012 said any association between skin cancers arising in tattoos “has to be considered thus far as coincidental.” Another from 2016 holds that adverse reactions are “relatively rare” and “generally unpredictable” and tend to be provoked by the immune system or skin infections.

The “long-term health effects” of tattoos have never been investigated, explain researchers from Sweden’s Lund University, who are currently working on a project to “for the first time ever” answer whether having tattoos is linked to increased cancer risk. The project will come to a close at the end of next year.

Read more via Politico

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