People get tattoos for all sorts of reasons: from remembering a loved one, to mark a specific event in their lives or just to express themselves artistically. But new studies show that no matter what kind of tattoo you get–a samll one or large back tattoo, microscopic particles from tattoos can travel within the body and reach the lymph nodes, researchers say.
Along with pigments, tattoo inks contain preservatives and contaminants such as nickel, chromium, manganese and cobalt.
“When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlor where they use sterile needles that haven’t been used previously. No one checks the chemical composition of the colors, but our study shows that maybe they should,” said study co-author Hiram Castillo. He’s a scientist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France.
The researchers said the study is the first to offer evidence that microscopic particles called nanoparticles from tattoos can travel into the body and reach the lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that produce blood cells designed to help fight disease and infections.
“We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the color of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo,” study co-first author Bernhard Hesse said in a facility news release. Hesse is a visiting scientist at ESRF.
“What we didn’t know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behavior as the particles at a micro [larger] level. And that is the problem: We don’t know how nanoparticles react,” he explained.
The findings were published Sept. 12 in the journal Scientific Reports and reported on by Health Day News.