Toxic nanoparticles in tattoo inks may harm your immune system

Modesto Morganelli
Settembre 17, 2017

Tattoos are immensely popular in United States, but getting one may also prove harmful to your health.

A new study in the Nature journal Scientific Reports found that microscopic particles from tattoo ink can migrate into the body and wind up in the lymph nodes of your immune system.

Toxic impurities that make up the ink in tattoos can travel inside the body in the form of nanoparticles and affect the lymph nodes, researchers said.

The study author, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, Hiram Castillo said that "When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlor where they use sterile needles that haven't been used previously". It is then accumulating the lymph nodes which may cause them to become swollen.

Nanoparticles ranging from few millions to few billions of centimeters mostly contain organic pigments, but they also include preservatives and contaminants like nickel, chromium, manganese or cobalt.

Besides carbon black, the second most common ingredient used in tattoo inks is titanium dioxide, which is associated with delayed healing, itching and skin irritation. It will then block the ability to fight the infections. "No one checks the chemical composition of the colours, but our study shows that maybe they should". The results of this study provide first analytical evidence of the transport of various types of pigments in tattooed tissues.

Scientists in Grenoble, joined by colleagues at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin, used X-ray fluorescence measurements to identify particles in the skin and the lymph nodes, which are located in the neck, under the arms and along the crease between the thighs and the abdomen. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo. What we didn't know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they 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", according to The Sun. Bernhard Hesse, one of the two lead authors of the study said.

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