EU countries will vote on use of some tattoo inks over cancer fears

EU countries will vote on whether to limit the use of some tattoo inks over fears chemicals could cause cancer

  • Plan to restrict use of 4,000 chemicals will be voted on by middle of next year 
  • UK will not have say but if law is enforced it would apply here during transition
  • Report discovered link between dermatitis and red ink due to mercury sulphide

Fears that chemicals in tattoo inks may cause cancer have sparked a call from Brussels for limits, it was reported last night.

A plan to restrict the use of 4,000 chemicals will be brought to a vote among EU member states by the middle of next year.

The UK will not have a say as it will not be a part of the European Union from March 2019.

But if the law is enforced, it would apply here during the 21-month transition period unless Britain diverged from the EU acquis, the body of law made in Brussels.

The proposed restrictions were discussed by The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) committees in June, according to The Guardian.

A plan to restrict the use of 4,000 chemicals in tattoo inks will be brought to a vote among EU member states by the middle of next year (file photo)

They will be examined again next month, before a formal opinion is sent to the European commission by the end of the year.

Mark Blainey, a senior scientific officer at the ECHA, said: ‘The commission then has three months to prepare a draft decision for the EU member states to vote on.

‘This is likely to happen in mid-2019. The composition of some tattoo inks and permanent makeup raises concerns for public health. The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and the fact that some of the substances might cause cancer, change DNA or be harmful to human reproduction.’


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It comes after the ECHA reported last October that it was ‘well known that tattoo inks can and do contain substances of concern such as identified carcinogens and skin sensitisers’.

No direct link has been made between the development of cancer and tattoos.

But the report did discover a link between dermatitis and red ink, due to the product’s high content of mercury sulphide.

Gareth Thomas, a Labour MP and former minister, said: ‘It is difficult to believe the Government aren’t committed to putting in place clear standards to stop the use of chemicals that could cause cancer in tattoo parlours up and down the country.’ 

No direct link has been made between the development of cancer and tattoos. But the report did discover a link between dermatitis and red ink, due to the product’s high content of mercury sulphide (file photo)

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