This may not be the fault of tattoo inks, when some people are allergic to their tattoos, but metallic particles of the needle that brings the colors under the skin. This surprising hypothesis is expressed by a team led by Ines Schreiver of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and Bernhard Hesse of the European Synchrotron Facility in Grenoble, from new data on what is happening in the body with tiny metal fragments. Surprisingly large amounts of these particles, which only measure a few micrometers, or even nanometers, are released by the needle during the tattooing process, the group announced in a publication published in "Toxicology of Particles and Fibers" . The problem is that the needles are made of stainless steel and contain chromium and nickel, two elements that cause sensitization and allergic reactions in many people. The metal particles migrate into the lymph nodes after surgery, eventually causing an immune response. The study makes no statement about a direct correlation between metal particles and allergies.
The team examined samples of skin and lymph nodes from six tattooed individuals, one of whom was allergic to contact. Using X-ray fluorescence analysis, which excites the X elements in the sample and identifies them by the light they emit, the group found iron particles rich in nickel and chromium in all samples. To determine their origin, Schreiver and Hesse then tested on pig skin how much of the stainless steel abrasion actually remained when tattooing the skin – and in these experiments she showed a surprising accomplice. If the color contained titanium dioxide, white pigment, actually harmless, there was much more of such particles than in experiments with black tattoo ink without titanium. The task force suspects that very hard oxide particles act like sandpaper and greatly increase abrasion. Despite this discovery, toxic components in tattoo inks remain the biggest problem at this stage, Schreiver told Time Online.