By Rhonda Ramsey
P.O.V. Contributing Writer
While browsing the internet, I read a somewhat scary article about something pretty popular -- something that 21 % of adult Americans have on his or her body -- tattoos. Take a look at this article from npr.org:
"Federal and state health investigators have identified five clusters of skin infections linked to tattoos.
Now it's true that infection risks from tattoos are not exactly new or unknown. In fact, tattoo parlors are licensed and regulated in many jurisdictions to minimize the risk of trouble for people getting 'inked.'
But those precautions would have been of no help to at least 14 people infected during tattoing in New York last year. Investigators figured out the source of the germs was the ink itself. And that may be just the tip of the tattoo needle.
Yes, tattoo artists should use sterile water and needles, but that's no guarantee of safety if the colored stuff they're using to make you into a masterpiece is contaminated. 'It's unfortunate that they can do everything right, but if the manufacturer doesn't supply them with sterile ink product it still results in them giving their clients infections,' CDC epidemiologist Tara MacCannell tells Shots.
MacCannell, the CDC's lead investigator on the infections, is one of the authors of a report on the findings, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The bacteria that caused these outbreaks of tattoo-related infections — Mycobacterium chelonae and Mycobacterium abscessus — are common in drinking water. Chlorination doesn't faze them."
After reading the article in its entirety, I found that parlors sometimes dilute ink with distilled water or water that has been purified by reverse osmosis -- water that is not sterile. In the situation of the outbreak in New York, after being inspected by the Food and Drug Administration, the supplier/maker of the ink was found to be involved, and the ink was recalled.
Do you have any tattoos? Did you know about the procedures some parlors use or the way many people are infected by the lack of care and preparation?
Another interesting question raised in the article:
"Why didn't the CDC's report name the ink manufacturers whose products were involved? 'Our sense is that this is a problem that's fairly widespread in the industry,' MacCannell says."
What are your questions? If you have tattoos, how do you feel about the possibility of more outbreaks than we realize, or having little access to the names of the manufacturers involved in this issue?