An investigation published by renowned French consumer rights magazine UFC-Que Choisir on the dangers of tattoo ink has caused a stir among tattoo professionals and many of their customers. The Tatouage & Partage trade association’s head office has decided to respond to the monthly magazine, reminding consumers that no link has ever been established between tattoo ink and cancer. We also want to continue to highlight the pressing need for a regulated professional status to protect our profession.
The recent investigation refers to the ink market as opaque, claiming that no one knows what goes into its products and that we cannot ask manufacturers to publish their “recipes” as they are trade secrets. And yet, when a problem with certain inks arose in 2013, the vast majority of leading ink brands sent us their ingredients and dose measurements so we could share them with the French Health Ministry and the ESTP (European Society of Tattoo and Pigment Research).
Their willingness to cooperate cannot be questioned as they have adapted to both national and European standards – which of course implies additional costs for each color. What’s more, they were not even approached as part of this investigation into their business. UFC did not publish their working methods, the details of any laboratories that carried out the tests, or the requirements on which their journalists based their research. This is quite ironic for an investigation claiming to be scientific…
It is therefore very difficult to provide a detailed response to this sort of scaremongering and ultimately baseless allegation. Today, there has been no link established between the potential toxicity of tattoo ink and any consequences on the human body.
All scientists specialized in this field – including the scientists, dermatologists, and researchers working for the ESTP – say that, with 20 years of perspective on the subject, there has been NO link found between tattoos, tattoo inks, and cancer. People with tattoos do not have more skin cancers or other forms of cancer than people without tattoos. However, these allegations directly impact tattooers themselves. Every time this kind of investigation is published, there is a drop in the number of customers in tattoo shops and therefore a significant decrease in revenue.
We cannot let journalists get away with what everyone has criticized Professor Raoult (French physician and microbiologist specialising in infectious diseases) for doing, including not sharing all available data, not carrying out group trials, and providing obscure information. There is currently no scientific consensus that can prove or disprove what is put forward in the UFC investigation. It is a shame that a magazine with a reputation of objectivity and professionalism has not deemed it necessary to uphold these qualities by including ink manufacturers, tattooers, distributors, and scientists who have worked in this field for many years.
Professional tattooers do not source their products from random online retailers. They rely on tattoo suppliers who are also responsible for what they sell and who meet set standards. Tattooers often have tattoos themselves. They tattoo their families and friends as well as their customers, and would never put them in danger. What’s more, they comply with national and European regulations in terms of pigments.
We have spoken with Lou Rubino, CEO of World Famous Tattoo Ink. He is also disappointed that manufacturers and tattooers were not included in the investigation and simply presented with the conclusions. He has also stated that we need to know the manufacture date of the ink used in the investigation, and believes he saw that they were made in 2019. The composition of tattoo ink was legally changed in 2020 in line with new European regulations. We therefore need to know how these tests were carried out, by whom, and to have access to the full, precise results in order to draw accurate conclusions. For now, this is not the case. If the tests were carried out on bottles from 2019 based on 2020 regulations, the results are therefore biased.
The “clickbait” title of the article is also disappointing because it is pointless – to date, the harmfulness of inks has still never been proven. This is a case of kicking a whole industry of professionals when they are down – professionals who just want to exist. When you build a house, you start with the foundations before tackling the roof. And in this case, before scapegoating the products used by tattooers, we should start by ensuring they can exist.
We are now in 2021 and our profession still doesn’t exist in France. We still have no professional status, and we believe that is the real problem. Under current rules, anyone can claim to be a tattooer. They simply have to take 21-hour paid training course, which doesn’t require you to pass an exam at the end. And with that, you are a tattooer! You don’t need to be able to draw, tattoo, take a photograph, or even manage your accounts…
In short, this is an article like so many others that are published once every two or three years. It scares consumers unnecessarily, as tattooers in France use inks made according to ResAP 2008 standards as required by the European Commission. Once again, NO link has EVER been established between tattoo ink and cancer. The MAIN problem in the French tattoo world is not the inks, but rather the lack of a professional status and any obligatory training. These two things would prevent just anyone from opening a business as a so-called tattooer. Unfortunately, in France, it is currently harder to become a baker than a tattooer.
We urge journalists to write about real issues instead of focusing on problems that don’t even exist.