Formaldehyde released from tattoo ink disinfection

The following is an excerpt from “Formaldehyde Released During Tattoo Ink Disinfection Process,” published in the December 2023 issue dermatology Li et al.

Tattoos are a common form of body art, with approximately 12% of Europeans and 20% of Americans having at least one tattoo. However, chemicals in the tattoo ink used to create these designs have raised concerns about potential health risks. Formaldehyde is a known hazardous substance and is a chemical found in tattoo ink. Despite its ubiquity, the factors that contribute to formaldehyde levels in tattoo ink and its potential health effects remain poorly understood.

In one study, researchers sought to evaluate the formaldehyde content in tattoo ink products sold internationally and identify factors that influence their production. Additionally, they explored potential ways to reduce the production of formaldehyde in tattoo ink. The investigation involved testing seven tattoo inks from different brands.

The findings indicate that formaldehyde release is primarily related to the gamma radiation sterilization process used in tattoo ink products. This is crucial information for tattoo artists as they need to understand the potential risks associated with the sterilization process. Additionally, the study found that tattoo ink compositions containing organic ingredients contained higher levels of formaldehyde than tattoo ink compositions containing inorganic ingredients, regardless of sterilization method or container type. Notably, glycerin released more than seven times more formaldehyde than other ingredients during gamma sterilization, a finding that should alarm tattoo artists.

The study highlights the need for further research to understand the chemical reactions that occur during sterilization and to explore alternative sterilization methods that minimize formaldehyde formation. It also highlights the importance of developing tattoo inks with lower formaldehyde content and implementing strict quality control measures. These measures are critical to ensuring the safety of tattooing practices, which is a top concern for regulators and researchers in the fields of dermatology and public health.

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