Last month, California company White and Blue Lion Inc. recalled inks in their in-home tattoo kits after testing and confirming bacterial contamination in unopened bottles. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is warning tattoo parlors, their customers and those buying at-home tattoo kits that not all tattoo ink is safe.
According to Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, using these inks for tattoos could cause infection. “FDA has confirmed one case of skin infection involving a consumer that used this company’s tattoo products,” Katz says, “and we are aware of other reports linked to tattoo products with similar packaging.”
Some of the recalled bottles have a multicolored Chinese dragon image with black-and-white lettering, while some are missing manufacturer information.
According to the FDA, injecting contaminated ink into the skin — or using improperly sterilized needles still tainted by this ink — may result in a nasty infection that, if untreated, could spread through your bloodstream (sepsis).
According to Katz, “Tattooing poses a risk of infection to anyone, but the risk is particularly high for those with pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems.”
The FDA said regulation differs from state to state and can be less strict in some states. “Depending on where you are, it’s possible no one is checking to make sure the artist is following safe practices or even knows what may be harmful to consumers,” the FDA said in a statement.
The warning signs of a possibly being infected by tattoo ink would be: redness, swelling, blemishes, excessive pain, or a “weeping” wound. These symptoms could lead to fever and eventually sepsis, requiring treatment with antibiotics, hospitalization, or even surgery. For those who fortunately experience only a contained, localized infection, the area may be permanently scarred even after healing.