Once upon a time, tattoos were a subculture thing. Those days, of course, are long past. Tats are everywhere and anywhere – even, you might be surprised to find out, under the skin…and NOT intentionally. Click the screenshot below to check it out.
Yes, tattoo ink. In the lymph nodes. As the doctor in the video explains, this is because lymph nodes are like the body’s scavengers, working to protect against harmful invaders. And new research out of Canada’s Western University suggests that they can have plenty to protect against.
For their study, published this past June in Contact Dermatitis, researchers analyzed 73 different tattoo inks currently on the market, many of which were made here in the US, where regulations are more lax. The results are concerning, to say the least.
Ninety-three percent of the bought tattoo inks violated European, legal requirements on labeling. Fifty percent of the tattoo inks declared at least one pigment ingredient incorrectly. Sixty-one percent of the inks contained pigments of concern, especially red inks. Iron, aluminium, titanium, and copper (most in green/blue inks) were the main metals detected in the inks. The level of metal impurities exceeded current restriction limits in only a few cases. Total chromium (0.35-139 μg/g) and nickel (0.1-41 μg/g) were found in almost all samples. The levels of iron, chromium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, zinc, lead, and arsenic were found to covary significantly.
Nickel, chromium, lead, arsenic, aluminum – metals like these are extremely toxic.
“Heavy metal toxicity,” explain the authors of a comprehensive 2014 paper on the subject,
has proven to be a major threat and there are several health risks associated with it. The toxic effects of these metals, even though they do not have any biological role, remain present in some or the other form harmful for the human body and its proper functioning. They sometimes act as a pseudo element of the body while at certain times they may even interfere with metabolic processes. Few metals, such as aluminium, can be removed through elimination activities, while some metals get accumulated in the body and food chain, exhibiting a chronic nature.
A number of factors impact toxicity, of course, including the specific type of metal, the duration of the exposure, the amount absorbed, and the individual’s overall current health status and body burden. All of us are exposed to countless toxins every day, after all – through the food we eat, water we drink, air we breathe, and products we use. The more a body needs to excrete, the less efficiently it may do so – sort of like how a sieve can filter well if steadily filled but not when overloaded all at once.
Rather than bloat this post with a laundry list of specific health impacts, we refer you to this overview of how particular heavy metals – lead, for instance, or mercury – have been shown to affect human health. The 2014 paper linked to above is also loaded with useful info on this.
The good news is that accumulated heavy metals can be removed from the body through chelation therapy, best administered in IV form and complemented with nutritional therapy to replace essential minerals that chelators also remove. Yes, there are natural chelators readily available, such as chlorella, cilantro, and activated charcoal, but we don’t recommend DIY detox of this sort, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of toxicity to one or more metals.
Physician-guided detox ensures you get the right dosage(s) with proper supplementation, and, most importantly, ensures that the process is done gently and effectively. Detoxing too quickly or harshly can make things worse in the long run.
And one last thing to keep in mind: Chelation is also important when having tattoos removed, a process which can intensify your exposure as the laser breaks up the ink in your skin. Here, you can read one person’s experience of reacting badly as the removal process began before undergoing chelation to heal.
Tattoo image by STAP@W, via Wikimedia Commons