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Health Risks of Tattoos

Submitted by on February 14, 2011 – 3:56 pmNo Comment | 1,518 views

Tattoos date back to at least 2,000 B.C. when Egyptians modified their bodies with ink. Cavemen from 4,000 B.C. found in the Ötz valley of the Alps reveal that the practice was more widespread than one would think.

But what are the modern day health risks of tattoos?

Recent surveys estimate that more than a third of Americans in the 18-29 cohort, 24% of those in the 30-40 bracket and 15 percent of those aged 41-51 bear tattoos. That’s more than 40 million tattooed Americans! Since the nineties, tattoo parlors have become one of the fastest growing retail sectors, but is tattooing really safe?

Health Risks of TattoosHere are the top risks you need to consider before presenting your bare flesh to be inked upon:

  • Allergic Reactions. It’s estimated 1 percent of the population suffers from sensitivity to chromate-containing tattoo pigment. Green and red pigments are said to contain the most chromium. The dye may cause an itchy rash to form at the tattoo site, which can occur immediately or up to 20 years later. (Read more about the risk here.)
  • Skin Infections. In 2004-2005, there was an outbreak of staphylococcal infection among 44 tattooed individuals in Vermont, Ohio and Kentucky. Most of these infections were transmitted by unlicensed tattoo artists who wore gloves but failed to follow other basic safety procedures such as: changing gloves between clients, using skin antisepsis and disinfecting all equipment and surfaces. (Read more about the case here.)
  • Blood-Borne Diseases. The most common fear associated with tattoos (pain aside) is the risk of being contaminated with blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Tetanus or HIV. However, to date, there has never been a case of HIV transmission by tattooing in the United States. The CDC reports that only 12 out of 13,387 annual cases of Hepatitis are associated with tattoo parlors. Statistically, it’s far riskier to visit your dentist than your tattoo artist. (Get more info on blood-borne diseases and tattoos here.)
  • MRI Complications. Studies suggest that 1.5 percent of the tattooed population may exhibit rare swelling, burning or tingling at the site of their tattoos following an MRI scan. Typically, this occurred when a patient had large areas of thick, black ink containing iron-oxide tattooed on their bodies. In some cases, tattoos have also interfered with the quality of the MRI images. (Learn about MRI complications here.)
An Off the Record Guide to Tattooing: History of the Tattoo, Body Modification, Health Risks and Tattoo Removal

An Off the Record Guide to Tattooing: History of the Tattoo, Body Modification, Health Risks and Tattoo Removal


Given the available data, we can conclude that getting a tattoo does pose some risks, but the procedure is actually quite safe if the proper sterilization and health guidelines are followed. Perhaps the biggest danger of getting a tattoo is regret! About 6 percent of people tattooed say they regret the decision because: they were too young (20%), it’s permanent and they’re marked for life (19%), they don’t like the tattoo itself (18%) or the tattoo has faded (16%). So as you prepare for your next piece of body art, keep yourself safe by finding a licensed tattoo artist who can show you safety inspection documentation and a solid portfolio of tattoos that don’t suck!

Article: Jennn FusionTwitter: @jennnfusion
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