Can your tattoos leave behind toxic ink that could affect your immune system?

If you have tattoos, beware. The ink from your art could leave particles on your lymph nodes, according to a new report.

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Scientists from institutions in Germany and France conducted a study, which was recently published in Scientific Reports, to determine how tattoos can affect the inside of the human body, particularly the lymph nodes which are a huge component of the immune system.

To do so, they examined deceased tattooed individuals and deceased non-tattooed individuals, also factoring in the color of ink. They then used high-tech X-rays to identify tattoo particles that may have traveled to different parts of the body.

After analyzing the results, they found ink particles on the lymph nodes of the tattooed subjects and none on the lymph nodes of the non-tattooed subjects. They discovered that these particles contained potentially toxic metals they believe derived from the tattoo ink. They also saw elevated levels of aluminum, chromium, iron, nickel and copper in both the lymph nodes and skin of tattooed individuals.

"When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlour where they use sterile needles that haven´t been used previously. No one checks the chemical composition of the colours, but our study shows that maybe they should," co-author Hiram Castillo said in a statement.

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Scientists did note they were not exactly sure the particles identified derived from the tattoos. However, they are confident about their findings. Plus, this is one of the first analyses of its kind. “The origin and fate of pigments in human lymph nodes have never been analytically investigated so far,” the study said.

For future examinations, researchers would like to delve deeper into their investigations to better track tattoo particles in other parts of the body.

“The outcome of these investigations,” the study said, “not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures.”

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