EU to tackle hazardous chemicals in permanent makeup and tattoo ink
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EU to tackle hazardous chemicals in permanent makeup and tattoo ink

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The European Union is to take action to deal with the presence of hazardous chemicals in permanent makeup and tattoo inks, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) decided.

At a meeting last week at its headquarters in Helsinki, the agency decided to turn its attention to the chemicals contained in the inks used, rather than outlaw the practices altogether.

Tattooing has a long history, involving introducing inks and pigments under the skin using needles, in order to create a permanent design. An estimated 12% of Europeans have some form of tattoo decoration.

Another ancient practice of using inks on the facial features to enhance beauty has become more widespread in recent years. Both practices have left their tribal origins behind, and now operate under strictly controlled circumstances, using state of the art equipment.

Now the ECHA wants to turn its attention to the composition of the inks used, and in particular the use of the so-called CMR substances: carcinogenic or causing cancer, mutagenic or affecting cell development and reprotoxic, which interfere with fertility and the reproductive system.

Other problem products include skin irritants, corrosives and metals banned by rules on the composition of cosmetics.

The main problem with the procedures, hygiene and the use of non-sterile needles, has been given attention for a long time now, and is generally eradicated as an issue. But the safety of the chemicals is still an issue – especially as these chemicals are being introduced to the body permanently.

This week the European Commission proposed an amendment to the EU’s chemicals legislation to protect the customers of tattoo artists and permanent makeup studios against potential hazards.

The Commission works hard on ensuring the safety of chemicals used in everyday products and is today restricting the use of dangerous substances in inks used for tattooing,” said Thierry Breton, commissioner of the internal market.

Some EU Member States have already done that, but with this restriction we aim to harmonise these measures at EU level and to improve citizens’ protection.”

Environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “The health and well-being of our citizens is our priority. In addition to allergies and skin problems, toxic chemicals found in tattoo inks can cause other adverse health effects, such as cancer. Tattooing is increasingly popular in Europe. This is why it is urgent that we regulate those chemicals now.”

The ECHA has a FAQ on the subject here.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times