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For the first ever FDA scientists will be evaluating the safety of the materials used in tattooing. The investigation was incited by numerous reports of skin irritation following a tattooing session. The FDA wants to know how the chemicals break down, and if any pose a threat to the individual’s safety. If the FDA finds it necessary to enact changes or limitations it could have a huge impact on the industry that usually flies below the FDA radar.

Most tattoo artists believe that bad reactions are few and far between, but with gaining popularity and over 15,000 shops in the US with an estimated $2.3 billion in annual business the once taboo art can no longer hide in the shadows and avoid federal regulation.

The tattoo industry has been ridiculed in the past for poor sterilization techniques and the spread of disease from careless artists, but nowadays almost every studio has adopted a very strict sterilization policy. While this has been a concern in the past there has been very little discussion of the actual materials used in the tattooing process.

In 2005, the FDA received over 150 reports of adverse skin reactions ranging from swelling and cracking to permanent scarring. In the end, the Texas based manufacturer recalled over 52,000 containers of pigment due to possible contamination.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is aware of more than 50 pigments used in tattoo inks, none of which have been approved for injection into the skin. The federal agency said some of these pigments are “industrial strength colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.”

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