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Chemicals in tattoo inks need closer scrutiny

SAN DIEGO, March 13 As tattoos have grown in popularity, so have complaints of adverse side effects associated with both their application and removal. A new study, done by chemistry students at Northern Arizona University, looked at the chemical composition of a variety of tattoo inks to better understand their potential health risks.

The findings, presented today at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, suggest that closer regulation of the tattoo industry may be warranted, according to the researchers.

Although inks used in tattoos are subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as cosmetics and color additives, the agency has not traditionally regulated them, letting the task fall to local jurisdictions, according to a fact sheet issued by the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-204.html. This effectively gives a tattoo artist license to inject whatever he or she deems appropriate under the skin, according to the researchers.

"Tattoos are no longer limited to the rough and rowdy," says Haley Finley-Jones, an undergraduate chemistry student and lead author of the study. "With the growing popularity of tattoos among young people, it is vital that we develop a better understanding of this form of self expression."

The new research a joint effort between Finley-Jones and Leslie Wagner as part of an undergraduate research project directed by Jani Ingram, a professor of chemistry at NAU has two main goals: to characterize the diversity of tattoo inks, and to determine if any inks pose health threats in the form of heavy metals or other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Overall, the study covers 17 inks from five different manufacturers. "We chose to study five different brands of black ink as it is the most common color used in tattoos," Finley-Jo
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