Tattoo Risks: Can Your Tat Reach Your Lymph Node?

“Is tattoo ink safe?” The question might leave even the most knowledgeable tattoo artist stumped. While, tattoo risks are typically associated with the use of contaminated needles or unsanitary tattoo parlor conditions, a new study suggests that tattoo ink — which can contain heavy metals and other toxic contaminants — gets permanently deposited in our lymph nodes, posing a potential health risk for individuals who decide to get inked. Though the study stops short of answering the question Is tattoo ink safe? it does raise serious concerns over the composition of tattoo ink and how it interacts with the human body.

The small study, published in Scientific Reports, found that microparticles and nanoparticles of tattoo ink end up getting deposited in lymph nodes. Experts had known of microparticles making their way into lymph nodes near the tattoo site, as lymph nodes become tinted with the same color of dye while attempting to remove the tattoo ink impurities from the skin .

Upon discovering nanoparticles of tattoo ink in the body, the researchers expressed concern over their presence as they interact differently with human tissue than larger particles; while tattoo ink nanoparticles’ effect is not well understood, the authors cited evidence of pigmented and enlarged lymph glands having been previously reported in individuals with tattoos, as well as tissue inflammation and deposition of certain ink components in breast cancer tissue.

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