HSE to investigate health risks of tattoo inks after EU ban

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HSE is to carry out a review of the risk of certain substances in tattoo inks and explore the case for introducing restrictions following a new EU ban.

The EU has banned thousands of chemicals found in colouring inks used to make tattoos. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which works for the safe use of chemicals in the EU, found that substances in tattoo ink may cause cancer or other health issues.

Now the UK government has stepped up its own plans to restrict the use of ‘certain harmful substances’ found in tattoo inks. According to the Guardian, the government has asked HSE to prepare a dossier into the issue.

4,000 hazardous chemicals in tattoo inks and permanent make-up are contained in the EU ban. Photograph: iStock

The EU ban came into force on 4 January. But the law does not apply to the UK as it came into effect after Brexit was sealed in January 2020.

The ECHA conducted a six-year long review into unsafe chemicals in tattoo ink. Its findings were that certain chemicals can cause skin allergies and other more serious health impacts, such as genetic mutations and cancer.

Ink pigments can also migrate from the skin to different organs, such as the lymph nodes and liver.

The ECHA insists that the new rules are not meant to be a ban on tattoos, but simply to make them safer. Contained in the ban are the use of 4,000 hazardous chemicals in tattoo inks and permanent make-up.

In March 2021, Defra said it would consider restricting some tattoo inks as part of the first restrictions initiated under UK REACH, its new chemical regulation system, to tackle risks posed by chemicals.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said in a statement: “UK Reach allows the UK to make its own decisions on the regulation of chemicals that are based on the best available scientific evidence, ensuring that chemicals remain safely used and managed.”

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