Using personal body space to display tattoo art may appear to be a modern trend, but, as evidence of such art on mummified skins reveal, it is an ancient art form that has been around for thousands of years. Irrespective of its longevity over the millennia, what is relevant here is its implication on the health of the wearer.

Currently there are few, if any, regulations on the chemicals used in tattoo inks, nor have there been extensive studies conducted on the impact of these inks on the body. Though the European Union (EU) has recently banned specific pigments in tattoos and permanent make-up, including Blue 15:3 and Green 7, citing bladder cancer among the risks, the United States has not followed suit.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),does not regulate tattoo inks, and there is no federal certification standard for tattoo artists, adding to the lack of awareness around potential concerns. New research by scientists at Binghamton the US is providing some insights that could prove to be cautionary ,,

The study team analyzed nearly 100 inks and reported that even among inks that displayed an ingredient label, there were inaccuracies in the constituents. They also found that some of the particles used in these inks could harm cells. Although the jury is out on whether these ingredients can have long-term health implications, it is interesting to take a look at how the inks are made and how they interact with the body.

The color comes from a solid pigment, which is suspended in a liquid carrier that could contain one or several ingredients like water, vodka, witch-hazel or even ingredients used in popular mouthwashes. The pigment itself contains a range of chemical ingredients, including malachite and chrome oxide used in green pigment, and iron oxide and cadmium red used in the red pigment.

When a person gets a tattoo, artists using machines can puncture the skin with a needle 50 to 3,000 times per minute. The carrier solution then transports the ink into the epidermis or middle skin layer. The immune system thinks an invader is infiltrating the body and springs into action, attempting to save the body from the wound. This action is how the tattoo becomes permanent.

As macrophage cells of the immune system rush to the wound, the ink gets stuck in them. In turn, the ink sticks to the dermis and stays there permanently. To find out what happens to the body and cells in the long-term, researchers at Binghamton University interviewed 100 tattoo artists and discovered they had preferred brands of ink but were unsure of the contents.

The researchers were in particular interested in looking at the particle size and molecular composition of pigments and noted that there were ingredients in ink not included on labels, including azo-containing dyes. Although these dyes may not pose concerns initially, they can break down into new molecules when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun or even laser removal and bacteria.

A report on some of these new molecules by Joint Research Centre (JRC), an independent agency that provides scientific advice in the European Union, noted that azo pigments could release carcinogenic compounds in the skin, especially if exposed to UV radiation or laser. Azo-containing dyes were present in 23 of 56 different inks analyzed.

Additionally, the team’s analysis indicated that about half of the 16 inks analyzed using electron microscopy contained particles smaller than 100 nanometers.
Scientists are concerned that when particles get below a certain size limit, that particle can get into cells, damage them, and it might lead to problems like cancer

The researchers admit that their study only scratches the surface of tattoo ink ingredients and potential concerns, but it also builds on a small body of knowledge. Other studies have shown that tattoo inks can cause among others, allergic reactions, infections, and irritation

Tattoo ink-related allergic reactions can be debilitating and may not show up for months or even years. When you have an allergic reaction to tattoo ink, it is a constant thing and can be very painful. Red ink is found to have the most reports of allergic reactions, followed by yellow ink.

It is important to seek care if you notice issues, particularly around the tattoo sight, including worsening pain and the area feels hot. Tattoo removal could help alleviate the pain, but it can take several weeks and typically involves using a laser. It may not completely remove the tattoo, and it is unclear whether laser removal could cause more harm than good. The procedure could lead to carcinogenic compounds being released into the skin.

Doctors warn people looking to get a tattoo to first ensure the tattoo artist is professional and experienced. They should also assess the sanitation of the artist’s shop and processes, and ask about aftercare. Also speak to a healthcare provider, especially if you have known allergies.

Given that specific blue and green pigments raised enough flags in the EU to get banned and red and yellow have a higher likelihood of allergies, people may consider skipping those pigments or going with an all-black tattoo.

Micro breaks boost performance

Apparently there is more to the American expression ‘Take five’, which refers to taking a five-minute break to relax in the midst of any strenuous task. New studies by researchers at West University of Timișoara în România show that people engaged in mentally tasking types of work could realize a boost to their performance and productivity from taking short breaks from work.

For their analysis the scientists reviewed results of micro-break studies over the past 30 years. One of their findings was that while there was no shared definition for how long a micro-break should last in order to realize a benefit. The researchers concluded the upper limit should be about 10 minutes.

They found that in general, the closer you are to 10 minutes, the better you will perform. However, you will still benefit from shorter breaks. The number and duration of work breaks were found to be less important than ensuring you take a break from work. These micro-breaks were found to reduce fatigue, increase performance, and optimize energy expenditure.

However, because the duration of these breaks are so brief, many people wonder what they could do to relax in just 10 minutes. Productivity specialists, who ascertain the best ways to utilize time and improve productivity, recommend several relaxation techniques that someone can engage in so as to gain maximum benefit in the minimum time.

The specialists point out that the basic strategy should be on movement whether it is getting up from sitting, walking around, stretching or doing push-ups does not matter, as long as you are getting vertical and moving around so as to get blood flowing, which is the healthiest use of even a free minute.

Doing something physical even in small amounts is found to be beneficial because it will benefit your mental and physical health. For example, you can do squats or stretch next to your desk. Intentionally standing after sitting at a desk, momentarily stretching, taking a pause to close your eyes, or taking a mindful deep breath, are all examples of micro-breaks.

A few other ideas include watering a plant, changing the placement of an object in the room, getting yourself a glass of water. However, it needs to be added that spending the 10-minute break to catch up on the latest ‘nuggets of tripe’ from social media, or other activities that involve screen time are not the best use of this relaxing time.

Online activity during the break time will only add to the eye strain, especially if the work after the break involves looking at a computer screen. Instead, try using the 20/20/20 technique. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Another easy to remember rule of relaxation is the 20-8-2. For every 20 minutes of sitting, take 8 minutes of standing and 2 minutes of moving.

The number of breaks you take in a day is also important. Experts note that the attention span of a person is not very long. A rule of thumb is to take a break every 50 to 90 minutes. The predictability and certainty of an anticipated break also helps with task completion, prioritization, and time management.

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