Health And Wellness

Why Your Tattoo Ink Might Be Slowly Killing You, According To Research

Photo: Natalie magic/ Shutterstock
tattoo motorcycle man

If you're looking for a reason to avoid getting tattoos, I've got you covered.

Apparently, your ink is bad for you.

A report released by the European Commissions Joint Research Center in 2016 revealed some of the scary things hiding in Europe's ink.

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What does this have to do with American tattoos? Well, most of the ink in Europe used for European tattoo art is imported from the USA, for one thing. 

The report identified several dangerous chemicals found in the tattoo ink, including some that could cause cancer.

They identified heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, nickel, preservatives, organic compounds, bacteria, and other potentially awful substances in the ink. 

But this report was only the beginning.

After it was released the European Chemicals Agency looked into tattoo ink itself and what they found verified the earlier report's findings. They released a statement that said in part “Tattoo inks and permanent makeup (PMU) may contain hazardous substances — for example, substances that cause cancer, genetic mutations, toxic effects on reproduction, allergies or other adverse effects on health."

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I got my first tattoo on the day of my 18th birthday. It's a sword that sits proudly in the center of my back. I didn't get my next two until I was in my 30s, with a cat on either wrist. 

I don't think knowing that there's a chance the ink under my skin might give me cancer or eventually cause my death in some other way changes how I feel about them. 

In other words, my tattoos don't make me nervous. 

I also know that if someone had told my 18-year-old self that tattoos can cause cancer, I would've continued merrily on my way.

In my 30s this information would've been shrugged off. After all, I smoked for a handful of years, surely a puddle of ink underneath my skin was no worse risk than that. 

RELATED: Woman Gets Blacked-Out Neck Tattoo & Says She's Having An 'Identity Crisis' After Not Liking How It Turned Out

Right now there are no cases of people whose cancer can be tied back to getting a tattoo, which is a relief. But if the chemicals in the ink are as dangerous as these reports out of Europe suggest, then it seems like something everyone needs to seriously consider before they go under the needle. 

It can be frustrating to live today when it seems like everything causes cancer.

I'm more than willing to wise up and not smoke, but I don't think I'm willing to stop getting tattoos on the off chance I'll be the first person to get cancer because of my tattoo ink.

RELATED: What Your Tattoo Placement Says About Your Personality

Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.