Health hazard due to metal particles from tattoo needles 2

Health hazard due to metal particles from tattoo needles

For the first time, metal particles from tattoo needles in the skin have been revealed

A few years ago, scientists reported having detected toxins from a tattoo 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 on the skin and on the lymph nodes from tattoo needles.

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

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

Tattooing needles can pose a health risk

As the BfR indicates in a statement, the tattoo needles are steel and therefore also contain nickel (6-8%) and chromium (15-20%). The research team has now shown that the metal particles can be abraded from the needle used and mixed with the skin if the tattoo agent contains the white titanium pigment (TiO2). According to information, nickel and chromium are mechanically released from the needle and penetrate the skin. Subsequently, these particles can then migrate into the lymph nodes.

Until now, it was thought that color pigments (tattoo agents) mainly contaminated with nickel and chromium were at the origin of metal-related tattoo allergies. With this new study, researchers now show that even tattoo needles pose a health risk. In addition, the load on the body increases with nickel and chromium. The results of the study published in the journal "Toxicology of Particles and Fibers".

Tattooed pigskin researchers

To arrive at their results, the researchers first analyzed skin and human lymph node samples using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence (XRF). These came from tattooed donors with no known health deficiencies. The results of these samples were then compared to data from the skin and lymph nodes of a tattooed patient suffering from allergy.

In the second part of the study, the scientists tattooed the pig skin with black ink (carbon-based) and with TiO2 ink, the latter with abrasive properties (shaving). Both colors have been previously examined and do not contain any steel particles.

The results of the two analyzes show that with the use of TiO2-containing ink, nanometric and micron sized metal particles are removed by tattoo needles. With black ink, this effect was much lower. According to the information, the metal particles contain nickel and chromium, are permanently deposited in the tattooed skin and are also partially transported in the lymph nodes.

Heavy metals enter the body

In the analyzed samples of a patient suffering from an allergic reaction, the researchers detected both color pigments (iron oxide) and abrastened 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 National Office of Health and Food Safety on its website. According to the BfR, additional research is now needed to evaluate the exact effect of abrasive tattoo needles on metal-related skin allergies. (Ad)