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EU Ink Dilemma

Good Morning Speak Easy Readers!

Today is the first day of Coachella which means for those of us who stayed back in Los Angeles, lighter traffic! Let’s enjoy it while we can.

Before we get into today’s topic I want you to imagine this… Imagine you have just decided that you are becoming a vegetarian. You walk into the grocery store and decide you are going to try plant-based meat for the first time and you’re even going to be cooking it! As you are looking in the plant-based meat section, you notice how surprisingly this subsitute looks so real. So out of curiosity you turn the product to look at the ingredients, but what’s this?? It's blank. How can that be? Shouldn’t you know what you are about to put into your body?

And with that thought, I now introduce you to today’s topic. EU’s recent ban on tattoo inks, more specifically inks that include Blue 15:3 and Green 7.

On January 4th, 2022 the European Union which includes 27 countries in Europe banned two commonly-used green and blue pigments. Any tattoo ink that includes the pigments Blue 15:3 and Green 7 are not allowed to be used.

“It does not only affect all your green tones, or all your blue tones. It’s also going to affect purples, some browns, a lot of mixed tones, the muted tones, your skin tones, all this stuff. You’re talking about 65-70% of the palette that a tattoo artist uses.” says Mario Barth, the owner and founder of Intenze Tattoo Ink.

According to the EU’s REACH, the use of these pigments can cause “cancer or genetic mutations”. Others feel this isn’t right, fair, or completely true. Dr. Ines Schreiver and her team who studies tattoo ink at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment examined the two pigments and said they appeared to have “a comparatively low level of toxicity” but that it wasn’t possible to provide a reliable health risk assessment because of a lack of data. For years, many countries in Europe have limited certain chemicals in tattoo inks that are thought to cause cancer, damage DNA, or trigger allergic reactions. Yet in the United States, tattoo ink is almost completely unregulated and there’s little known about what’s in the tattoo ink. As of 2022 statistics said 46% of the US population have at least one tattoo. So for a lot of us this news may cause some concern.

Going back to the Eu’s new ban, REACH emphasized “the aim is not to ban tattoos, but to make the colors used in tattoos and permanent make-up safer.” REACH regulations require proof that a pigment is safe rather than depending on a lack of proof of it being dangerous. What’s unfortunate though is that there isn’t that kind of data yet for these two pigments. On top of that there aren’t really any good substitutes for these two pigments, and many tattoo artists are worried about finding replacements for them. Without these pigments, palettes will become muted and colors will be limited.

Until someone can provide data proving that Blue 15:3 and Green 7 are safe these regulations will remain for the EU. Artists worry that because the alternatives to these pigments aren’t safe that some will start using even less regulated ingredients as a substitute. Pigment manufacturers create pigments for multiple uses so therefore they don’t do tattoo specific safety trials, instead ink makers have had to choose pigments based on their own trials and errors. Despite the tattoo industry asking for safety studies, there isn’t the cash in place to pressure these big companies to make new pigments or study the ones they have.

For the time being I am relieved that there isn’t information that actually says these pigments will cause you harm, but on the other hand I do believe our industry deserves proper safety trials. Just like anything else that is going into your body, you want to know what it is and have proper information about it. The one bright side that I see to this ban, is hopefully this will push for these studies to finally happen. As we know, the art form of tattooing goes back thousands of years. And one thing has always been true and still remains true today, tattoos are mysterious. From the methods, the rituals, the inks and more there are many questions about tattooing throughout time. For the industry today, the question for some of us is, will I ever be able to do a vibrantly colorful tattoo again?

Until next time my fellow apes,

Peter Hernandez


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