Almost a third of people in the United States have one and nearly half of millennials have at least one inking. Even the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has one - so mainstream, man.
Tattoo inks are mostly unregulated and have reportedly been causing skin reactions and other issues. Particles that make up the tattoo ink can travel deep inside the skin and accumulate in lymph nodes, which are crucial for immune system. It is added in the tattoo ink to create certain colors.
"When someone wants to get a tattoo... no one checks the chemical composition of the colors, but our study shows that maybe they should", explains Hiram Castillo, one of the authors of the study, in a statement. They act a bit like a filter for foreign bodies, whether it's pathogens or cancer cells. Although most tattoo inks contain organic pigments, they also generally include preservatives or contaminants such as chromium, cobalt, manganese or nickel.
When researchers used X-rays fluorescence to detect titanium dioxide once it enters the tissue, they found the compound at the micro and nano range in the skin and the lymphatic environment. We come across this inorganic chemical constantly in our everyday life, from food additives to sunscreens to paints.
This may lead to the chronic enlargement of the lymph node and lifelong exposure, researchers said.
Researchers from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility said that scientists long knew that tattoo pigments could travel to the lymph nodes because the organs become tinted. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo.
The main danger of such ornaments can be not the needles that have not been sterilized, and that is microscopic particles of dyes. "And that is the problem we don't know how nanoparticles react", said Bernhard Hesse, from ESRF.
It sounds scary but is this anything to worry about? Previous evidence suggests these toxic impurities could be associated with inflammation, however, once again, more research needs to be done before jumping to any hard conclusions.