In-depth: Tattoos may have serious health risks

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Nearly half of all millennials have at least one tattoo, and while body art is becoming more popular, it can come with a serious health risk.

Tattoos are permanent body art that carries a personal meaning and story.

It seems millennials are finding more reasons to get one.

A recent Harris Poll shows almost half of Americans between 18 and 29 years old have at least one tattoo.

Although some people take tattoos lightly, getting one can have serious consequences.

The tattoo industry is loosely regulated with rules governed by each state.

And what about the ink?

The Food the Drug Administration notes it has never approved any type of ink for tattoos, leaving consumers fearful.

“Some places, if they’re not licensed, could be using inks such as printer ink,” Dr. Rina Marfatia said. “It’s kind of disturbing to know that could be a possibility. In addition to that, the fact that the inkwells can be reused. That’s where sometimes you can transfer infections from one person to another.”

A tattoo is actually an open wound, making it susceptible to bacterial infection that could leave a scar.

So, it’s crucial to choose a shop that exercises good practices and operates safely.

“We make a very sterile and clean environment,” industrial tattoo assistant Niki Solima said. “Everything that’s used has expiration dates. Anything that’s past expiration dates we toss. Every needle, every cartridge, is one-time use only.”

But it’s not just the artist’s responsibility to prevent infection.

Consumers have to commit to protecting their tattoos.

“People get staph infections from wounds, and tattooing is technically is a wound, but it’s not the cause of the infection,” industrial tattoo artist Joe Clark said. “I would say 99 percent of the time, if somebody receives an unwanted effect in a tattoo, it’s from outside the tattoo shop.”

“I don’t think there are health risks,” Apex tattoo owner Ian Oliver Wheeler said. “As long as you go to a legitimate place…everyone has your best interest and their best interest in mind….Don’t get tattooed out of a kitchen.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports infections from tattoos are rare, but it did happen to Josie.

“I went out and did a lot of physical activity to get into shape, but I did it too soon after being tattooed, and it caused an issue that way,” Josie Lake said. “But I wouldn’t say it was a result of the tattoo rather than my being a little irresponsible.”

So, once a testament to breaking the rules, the tattoo industry is now more focused on following them.

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