Health hazard from metal particles from tattoo needles 2

Health hazard from metal particles from tattoo needles

For the first time, metal particles from tattooed needles appeared in the skin

Several years ago, scientists reported that they had discovered tattoo toxins in the lymph nodes. There are now new discoveries about the potential health risks of tattoos. According to a recent study, metal particles can be deposited in the skin and lymph nodes with tattoo needles.

Allergic reactions to tattoos and their ingredients are among the most common side effects of tattooing. Based on the results of the study, scientists have assumed that color pigments, especially those contaminated with heavy metals, trigger these allergies. Although tattoo needles contain nickel and chromium, their effect on the deposition of metals in the skin has not yet been studied. An international team led by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has now closed this research gap.

Tattoo artist tattooing
Researchers have found that tattoo needles can deposit micro- and nanoparticles of metal in the skin and lymph nodes. With this study, the researchers provide evidence that even tattoo needles pose a health risk. (Image: belyjmishka /

Needle tattooing can pose a health risk

As BfR states in the statement, tattoo needles are made of steel and therefore contain nickel (6-8%) and chromium (15-20%). The research team has now shown that metal particles can be torn off from a needle used and melted into the skin if the tattooing agent contains white titanium pigment (TiO2). According to the information, nickel and chromium are mechanically released from the needle and into the skin. Thereafter, these particles can migrate to the lymph nodes.

Until now, color pigments (tattooing agents), mainly contaminated with nickel and chromium, are thought to cause metal-related tattoo allergies. With this new study, researchers are now providing evidence that even tattoo needles pose a health risk. In addition, the load on the body increases with nickel and chrome. Results of the study published in the journal "Particles and Fiber Toxicology".

Researchers tattooed pig skin

To arrive at their results, the researchers first analyzed human skin and lymph node samples using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence (XRF). They came from tattooed donors without any known health defects. The results of these samples were then compared with data from the skin and lymph nodes of the tattooed allergic patient.

In the second part of the study, scientists tattooed pig skin on one side with black (carbon-based) ink and on the other with TiO2 ink, the latter having abrasive (shaving) properties. Both colors were tested previously and found to be free of steel particles.

The results of both analyzes show that by using nano- and micrometer-sized metal particles containing ink, the metal particles are removed by tattoo needles. With black ink, this effect was much lower. According to the information, the metallic particles contain nickel and chromium, are deposited permanently in tattooed skin and are partly transported to the lymph nodes.

Heavy metals enter the body

In the analyzed samples of a patient suffering from an allergic reaction, the researchers found colored pigments (iron oxide) and abraded steel particles in inflamed skin. The results show that the use of tattoo needles, nickel and other heavy metals can enter the body and trigger allergic reactions.

In addition, nickel and nickel compounds are classified as carcinogenic to humans, explains the Bavarian State Office for Food Health and Safety on its website. According to BfR, further research is needed to evaluate the exact effect of abraded tattoo needle particles on allergies to metal-related skin tattoos. (AD)