Permanent body tattooing has become a huge industry in the United States as the acceptance of “body art” by younger generations has brought the practice outside of grimy storefronts in the seamier sections of urban areas and into the mainstream. Recent figures indicate that annual spending on tattoos by US consumers exceeds $1.65 billion and that 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 have at least one tattoo.
Although the overall safety of tattooing has likely increased as the result of state and local regulations and better training of tattoo artists, many health risks remain. Some individuals may develop local or systemic allergic reactions to tattoo dyes, and blood borne diseases such as hepatitis may result from contaminated needles.
While many tattoo health risk can be reduced significantly by artist adherence to basic sterilization protocols, there have been a disturbing number of recent reports of life-threatening bacterial infections linked to tattoo inks themselves. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported several clusters of patients in New York, Colorado and Iowa who developed Mycobacterium infections associated with nationally distributed ink products. In July 2014, the Food & Drug Administration announced the national recall of tattoo ink kits manufactured by White & Blue Lion, Inc. of California due to “pathogenic microbial contamination.”
The frequency of infections occurring after tattooing is not known. Tattoo-associated skin and soft tissue infections can range from mild inflammation (e.g., rash, papules, or nodules) to severe abscesses requiring extensive and multiple surgical procedures. These infections are very difficult to treat and can require a minimum of many months of antibiotic treatment. Consumers who develop rashes or nodules on or around newly tattooed areas should consider the possibility of an infection and seek immediate medical evaluation.
Under federal law, tattoo inks are considered “cosmetics.” There are no specific regulations that require ink manufacturers to test their products for dangerous pathogens. According to the CDC, the safety of tattoo inks, even when used by reputable tattoo artists, cannot be guaranteed unless ink manufacturers adopt adequate sterility protocols and testing. Until then, CDC recommends that consumers should 1) use tattoo parlors registered by local jurisdictions; 2) request inks that are manufactured specifically for tattoos; 3) ensure that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic practices; 4) be aware of the potential for infection following tattooing, and seek medical advice if persistent skin problems occur; and 5) notify the tattoo artist and health authorities if they experience an adverse event.
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If you have developed an infection requiring medical attention following a tattoo procedure, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP is a nationally recognized law firm with decades of experience litigating lawsuits involving a huge range of products, including drugs, cosmetics and medical devices.