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Tattoo ink travels deep into body
September 24, 2017, 5:06 pm

Scientists from Germany and at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, have come up with analytical evidence showing that micro and nanoparticle elements in tattoo ink travel inside the body to reach the lymph nodes.

Very few people who go in for a tattoo are concerned about the quality or composition of the ink used in the tattoos, but they need to pay attention to the potential impurities present in the ink that enters their skin, said scientists at ESRF. While many tattoo inks contain organic pigments, they also include preservatives and contaminants such as nickel, chromium, manganese or cobalt.

Besides carbon black, the second most common ingredient used in tattoo inks is titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment usually applied to create certain shades when mixed with colorants. TiO2 is also commonly used in food additives, sun screens, paints. White tattoos, and consequently TiO2 are often associated with delayed healing, skin elevation and itching following tattoos.

Scientists have now managed to get a very clear picture on the location of TiO2 once it gets in the tissue. "We already knew that micro-level pigments from tattoos travel to the lymph nodes as these nodes become tinted with the color of the tattoo. What we didn't know is that they do it in a nanoparticle form, which may not have the same behavior as the particles at a micro level. And that is the problem: we don't know how nanoparticles react with tissues," said Bernhard Hesse, one of authors of the study and ESRF visiting scientist.

The report states there is strong evidence for both migration and long-term deposition of nano-sized toxic elements and tattoo pigments, as well as for the alteration of biomolecules that are sometimes linked to cutaneous inflammation and other adversities upon tattooing.

The next step, the research team said, was to inspect further samples of patients with adverse effects in their tattoos, in order to find links with chemical and structural properties of the pigments used to create these tattoos.

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