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Over the years, much progress has been made in establishing the art of tattooing as a medically safe practice. Today, it is often described as a simple outpatient procedure. However, in recent news, there has been a flood of tattoo-related TB cases popping up across the country.
Earlier in the year, a young man in Rochester, NY entered the office of his primary care physician with a mystery rash. After initial treatment failed, he followed up with dermatologist Dr. Mark Goldgeier who found that the mystery rash was actually a form of Tuberculosis. After an investigation was performed by the Monroe County Health Department, it was found that the culprit was an infected tattoo ink that was picked up by the man’s tattoo artist at a recent trade show.
Because they fall under the category of cosmetics, guidelines indicate that the FDA is responsible for monitoring pigments and inks in tattoo solutions. But, how did this ink escape FDA approval before use? Currently, there is no requirement that states tattoo inks must be sterile, which can cause contamination issues - such as this - to arise. Currently, researchers believe the infection came from distilled water used in the tattoo ink manufacturing processes.
After further investigation, the CDC found that 1 in every 3 bottles of the same ink used across Monroe County were contaminated, infecting 18 other people. In addition, the CDC found that 32 additional patients in Washington, Colorado, and Iowa had either possible or confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the national total of tattoo-related TB cases caused by this type of infected tattoo ink to 51. It was also found that not all of the cases were a result of the same brand of ink.
There is good news in all of this. After the incident, all tattoo parlors in Monroe County passed the criteria for hygienic and sterile operations. Because this incident was not an issue of unsanitary conditions, but rather one of product manufacturing, most tattoo parlors in the nation would likely pass, as well.
How can a prospective tattoo client help ensure they won’t contract a disease from their tattoo? Do some research. Always work with a trusted tattoo artist at a reputable studio, and ask questions about their methods, instruments, and inks. You can even point out that you are concerned about the possibility of this incident happening to you. Expressing your concerns can help make the artist more aware of what they’re doing and take extra care to take the appropriate safety precautions.Sources: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20120822/NEWS01/308220030/rochester-upstate-tattoo-infection-ink?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Local%20News NBC News Vitals: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/22/13417518-infected-tattoos-linked-to-distilled-water-in-ink?lite Huffington Post Healthy Living: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/22/tattoo-infection-tainted-ink-mycobacterium-chelonae_n_1823280.html WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20120822/studies-question-safety-tattoo-ink MedPage Today: http://www.medpagetoday.com/InfectiousDisease/GeneralInfectiousDisease/34330 ABC News Health: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/trail-ink-tracking-rare-tattoo-related-infection/story?id=17060757#.UDZLdKPX7IU