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Consumer Safety

Tattoo inks targeted by EU regulators

by Britt E. Erickson
January 24, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 4


Close-up of a tattoo on a woman's arm showing the chemical structure of chlorophyll.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
European Union member states plan to discuss a proposal to restrict hazardous substances in tattoo inks in February.
Chemical structure of pigment blue 15.

The European Commission is moving closer to restricting more than 4,000 substances in tattoo inks and permanent makeup after an assessment by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The agency, along with three member states and Norway, proposed limiting the concentrations of those substances in tattoo inks to protect people from adverse skin reactions and other health effects. ECHA claims that the substances are carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic to reproduction; skin sensitizers or irritants; corrosive or damaging to the eye; metal containing; or already regulated in cosmetics. The agency included some substances not currently found in tattoo inks to prevent them from being used for such purposes in the future. ECHA also recommended phasing out two phthalocyanine dyes—pigment blue 15 and pigment green 7—over a 2-year period to ensure that blue and green tattoo inks are available while formulators seek to find safer alternatives. The commission plans to discuss ECHA’s recommendations with member states in February. The restrictions would become effective 1 year after the commission officially adopts the measure.


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