Tainted Tattoo Ink Might Cause Infection

A tattoo ink distributor recalled ink after some bottles tested positive for bacterial contamination. The FDA fears consumers could still be at risk.

Tainted Tattoo Ink Might Cause Infection
Deanna Wardin / CC BY NC ND 2.0

If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, you might want to keep an eye out for tainted ink. Some tattoo ink bottles sold online might be contaminated, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last month, White and Blue Lion Inc. recalled inks and needles in home tattoo kits after discovering bacterial contamination in some unopened ink bottles. The kits, which were sold through Amazon, are also used by tattoo parlors. (Video via Vice)

At least one infection linked to the recalled products has been reported. But despite the recall, the FDA believes some consumers might still be purchasing or using the contaminated kits obtained from other distributors. To see photos of what the products in question look like, head over to the FDA's website.

Minor skin infections caused by tattoos are not rare — sometimes only resulting in redness or swelling. But the FDA warns severe infections can lead to sepsis, which requires hospitalization.

"Tattooing poses a risk of infection to anyone, but the risk is particularly high for those with pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems."

And proper sterilization does not always guarantee safety, as one New York tattoo parlor realized two years ago. A similar outbreak stemming from contaminated water in tattoo ink resulted in 19 reported infections.

The dangers of tattooing are not unique to permanent tattoos. The FDA also warns temporary tattoos, such as those using henna, can cause skin reactions such as blisters, loss of skin pigmentation and even permanent scarring.

Tattoos weren't always as common as they are today, and the number of infectious outbreaks have increased as more people have gotten tattoos in recent years.

According to CNN, despite the negative attitude toward visible tattoos in many workplaces, one poll found 40 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo in their household — compared to just 21 percent 15 years ago.

The FDA urges anyone to seek medical care if they experience signs of infection from a tattoo and to dispose of any ink bottles that have no brand name or are missing the manufacturer or distributor. 

This video contains images from Deanna Wardin / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and catty01 / CC BY NC ND 3.0.