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A Survey of Metals Found in Tattoo Inks

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Abstract: While the practice of tattooing has existed for thousands of years, it has recentlybegun growing in popularity in the US. With the increasing prevalenceof tattoos, the methods and inks involved in the tattooing process have alsodeveloped. Tattoos now use many brightly colored inks, often made usingmetal-based pigments. There is concern that chemicals may be present in tattooinks in concentrations that may lead to human health concerns eitherduring application or removal of tattoos. Since exposure to metals has beenlinked to tremors, liver damage, memory loss, cognitive loss, and even death,there is concern about the prevalence of metals in tattoo inks in general. Tothis end, a survey of 226 commercial tattoo inks was performed and each inkwas analyzed for the presence of heavy metals using two different x-ray methods:Particle Induced X-Ray Emission and Scanning Electron Microscopy Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy. Fifteen metals were identified in varioustattoo inks by these rapid x-ray methods, including chromium, manganese,nickel, copper, barium, and lead. Conclusions can be drawn about the prevalenceof metals in some pigment colors and from some brands.

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