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Should Tattoo Ink Be Regulated?

3 out of 10 Americans (29%) having at least one tattoos, but few realize the unregulated elements of their ink. The FDA has traditionally not exercised regulatory authority for many color additives for pigments used in tattoo inks despite receiving more than 150 reports of adverse effects from certain tattoo ink shades in a two-year period. Infections, rashes and interference with how the skin transpires have all been documented, and the ink remains unregulated. We asked global doctors,

Do you think tattoo ink should be regulated by your government?

Out of the 1537 doctors from 46 countries who responded, an overwhelming 73 percent said that ink should be regulated:

“Tattoos are not safe: you need to know and follow the rules of customer service in tattoo parlors and sanitary norms, checks should be tough… [but in Russia] nobody controls the quality of ink for tattoos. They can contain harmful substances: lead, aluminum, cobalt and others.”  – General Practice, Russia

“It must be regulated to ensure that it is safe, since it is the one that will be introduced into the body and can be an infection or inflammatory site.” – Neurosurgery, Mexico

“I did not know there were so many side effects of ink; of course, it must be regulated and subjected to quality controls to avoid undesirable effects, especially those that have to do with affecting the functions of the skin.” – Pediatrics, Venezuela 

“Tattooing is an invasive procedure. If the state regulates the people who put dye on people’s hair why would they not regulate people who inject dye into your skin? I have seen a patient who contracted Hepatitis C from a tattoo.” – Orthopedic Surgery, U.S.

“I believe that the quality and composition of tattoos must be regulated so as to guarantee safety and allow proper monitoring of possible injuries.” – General Surgery, Italy

“Absolutely Yes, they SHOULD BE REGULATED, both the inks and the tattoo artists who often carry out their activity in precarious hygiene conditions.” – Orthopedic Surgery, Italy

Half of the doctors who thought that ink should not be regulated were American, and many of these respondents predominantly argued against regulations in general:

“I am not a proponent of tattoos. I am a proponent of freedom. We live in an over regulated environment.” – Anesthesiology, US

 The government should regulate every facet of every possible choice of everyone’s life all the time – because if it doesn’t – occasionally someone will have an adverse outcome – and we couldn’t have that, could we??” – Emergency Medicine, US

 “Our country was founded on the principles of doing what we want, as long as we don’t harm others. Why is there a need to regulate everything?” – Anesthesiology, US

 “Don’t regulate it until we know more about it. If we find something harmful is being used, consider it.” – Physical Medicine, US

The poll was fielded in November of 2017. 1537 physicians responded to the poll. The margin of error for the global poll was ±2%. More information about Sermo polling methodology can be found here.

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