Ban on many tattoo inks from next year leaves artists high and dry
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Ban on many tattoo inks from next year leaves artists high and dry

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

A looming ban on a common ingredient in many tattoo inks is causing concern among tattoo artists, because of the shortage of alternatives.

The ban affects isopropanol, a constituent of many tattoo inks. The ban comes into force on 4 January 2022.

Isopropanol, or isopropyl alcohol, is a common ingredient in many products, such as antiseptics, disinfectants, and detergents. It is widely used in household and personal care applications, such as hand sanitiser, rubbing alcohol and cleaning pads.

However it can also irritate the eyes, which is the main reason for the ban in tattoo inks. It can also dry out the skin and cause nerve damage.

But the problem for the tattoo sector is that there is barely a type of ink in common use that does not contain the compound, and the ban is outright, not just a lowering of permissible levels.

In fact, the EU stepped in in 2018 when it became clear there was virtually no control over the tattoo sector, or the constituent parts of the products used. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki called fro more regulation, for safety purposes.

The change in the law would mean tattoo inks become as tightly-regulated as other cosmetic products, most of which are not after all injected beneath the skin.

Ink producers, with the ban now close on the horizon, are trying without a great deal of success to provide alternatives. Any tattoo artist who continues using an ink containing isopropyl alcohol after 4 January is breaking the law and risks being closed down and fined.

The public health ministry of Frank Vandenbroucke has plans to inform tattoo shops personally of the situation, while checks will be carried out once the measure is in force. But since the measure was published back in 2020, the health ministry sees no need for a delayed introduction of the measure.

In the meantime, a rush on the shops might be expected, as potential customers see the writing on the wall.

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