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Ministry Cautions on Tattoos

Ministry Cautions on Tattoos

The Ministry is advising caution for individuals seeking tattoos because of the risk of infection and also because of the theoretical risk of heavy metals present in some tattooing inks.

Similar warnings have been published overseas.

Director of Public Health Dr Mark Jacobs says it’s clear that the greatest risk is from poor hygiene practices. Tattooists need to have very good hygiene practices to limit the spread of blood to blood diseases such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Along with this well-known and established risk, there is also the likely theoretical risk of harm from chemicals in tattoo ink.

A recent survey by the Ministry of Health shows that although the majority of tattoo inks meet the voluntary guidelines for heavy metals, some tattooing inks contain these chemicals at greater than recommended levels.

Dr Jacobs says unfortunately, currently science can’t tell us with any certainty about the risks posed by the higher than recommended levels of heavy metals found in some inks.

In the absence of this certainty, the generally accepted scientific view is that lower exposure levels to these chemicals is better.

Individuals considering a tattoo should do their homework, particularly about how their tattooist manages infection risk and also ask about the composition of inks used before agreeing to a tattoo.

The results of the Ministry’s testing, including the names of the inks and the names of the companies manufacturing have been published on the Ministry website.

This information, while limited, may be of assistance to people considering a tattoo, says Dr Jacobs.

The Ministry is writing to tattoo ink distributors and manufacturers providing them with the results of the latest survey. The Ministry will be repeating this survey in the near future.

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