Thailand's Medical Sciences Department issues tattoo ink warning

Department of Medical Sciences warned that some tattoo ink might contain metals and bacteria leading to skin problems including cancer.

Citing the department's recent random tests on 52 tattoo-ink samples, department chief Dr Apichai Mongkol yesterday said the Bureau of Cosmetics and Hazardous Substances found four samples contained arsenic as high as 14.64 micrograms per gram, and four other samples had cadmium as high as 7.89mcg/g. ASEAN regulations on cosmetic products mandate arsenic contamination of less than 5mcg/g, while Thai law requires cadmium to be less than 3mcg/g.

Thirteen samples contained bacteria and one contained Pseudo-monas aeruginosa, Apichai said. The bacteria rate was 35,000 to 10 million colonies per gram, compared with the safety standard of 1,000 per gram.

He said prolonged exposure to the metals in question could cause skin cancer, while bacteria cause infections to lungs, or skin and eye irritations. P aeruginosa is the cause of ecthyma gangrenosum, a skin infection.

As the Food and Drug Administration did not categorise tattoo ink as a type of cosmetic,The risk of substances that are not sterile was prominent, hence people - especially women keen on tattooing lips and eyebrows - should be cautious and get the services from reliable sources.