Of the biggest fears tattoo-ees (especially first-timers) have is that of infection. There are some pretty basic ways to avoid running into complications from getting a tattoo or a piercing (write-up coming soon!) but one thing that rarely crosses the mind, if ever, is that the ink itself may be tainted.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that this is extremely rare and the chances of you actually having gotten injected with these particular inks is even rarer. Think: winning $20,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket kind of rare across the entire population. (I’m assuming; I have no actual data to back that up, but if someone wants to crunch the numbers, I’m sure it would bear out).
How was this discovered? Good regulatory inspection work, that’s how.
The FDA has become aware of contaminated tattoo inks through its FY2018-2019 inspections of distributors and manufacturers, routine surveys of marketed tattoo inks, and subsequent microbiological analysis of sampled tattoo inks. The FDA has identified 6 tattoo inks contaminated with bacteria harmful to human health. The tattoo inks were manufactured or distributed by 4 firms inspected under an ongoing assignment. Tattoo inks were analyzed using methods described in the Bacteriological Analytical Manual Chapter 23: Microbiological Methods for Cosmetics, which is the general method used to determine bacterial contamination of cosmetics.
If you’re curious, you should read chapter 23 above about Microbiological Methods for Cosmetics. It’s pretty interesting stuff. To me, at least.
What inks are possibly contaminated?
The following inks are affected by the recall:
Solid Ink-Diablo (red) tattoo ink manufactured by Color Art Inc. (dba Solid Ink) (dba Antone’s Ink) (lot 10.19.18):
You may be thinking, ‘Uh, oh…. I got some work done recently and it was black/red/black-and-red!’ Again, it’s unlikely (statistically) that you’ve been impacted by this but, if you’re concerned, simply contact your artist and ask them about the recall. I just messaged my go-to shop on Facebook and asked. They were quick to let me know that they were clear and no artists there use that ink.
Worried that you’ve won the (shitty) lottery? The FDA has this to say:
Commonly reported symptoms of tattoo-ink-associated infections include the appearance of rashes or lesions consisting of red papules in areas where the contaminated ink has been applied. Some tattoo infections can result in permanent scarring. Indications of an infection can be difficult to recognize as other conditions (e.g., allergic reactions) may initially have similar signs and symptoms, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatments.
So, unless that applies to you, you’re probably just fine. Remember: tattoos are open wounds and your body can heal in strange, different, and interesting ways depending on the precise nature and location of that wound. For me, lines on my outer forearm take forever while work on the inside of my bicep barely takes more than 48 hours to be functionally healed. Listen to your body but stay informed.