Tattoo Risks Greater Than Thought
Study: 1 in 10 have a skin reaction, and it can last for months or longer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2015 2:39 PM CDT
A tattoo artist works on a client.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(Newser) – A new survey of those who have gotten tattoos suggests that more people than realized suffer a nasty skin reaction as a result. NYU researchers determined that 10% of people suffer short-term complications such as a rash, infection, or swelling that last for days or weeks. But the scarier stat is that 6% of the newly inked have complications that last at least four months, and sometimes for years, the researchers say in a post at Eureka Alert. "We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo," says lead investigator Marie Leger. In the study published in Contact Dermatitis, the research team suggests it's time to set up a national database and a protocol for reporting problems.

Those steps could help determine what's causing the reactions, such as particular chemicals in the ink, say the researchers. One nugget from the 300-person study is that red ink was used in 44% of the tattoos that caused chronic problems, the highest percentage of any color. That didn't surprise the president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, who, while calling rashes "uncommon although not unheard of," tells that "some folks' bodies do not like red pigments." No federal regulations cover tattoo ink, notes CNN, and it quotes a dermatology professor not involved with the study who praises it for calling attention to the subject. He predicts that the composition of dyes used in tattoos might come under federal scrutiny. (A more bizarre side effect of tattoos: They'll mess up your Apple Watch.)