Current knowledge of the degradation products of tattoo pigments by sunlight, laser irradiation and metabolism: a systematic review

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Abstract

The popularity of tattooing has increased significantly over recent years. This has raised concerns about the safety of tattoo inks and their metabolites/degradation products. The photolytic and metabolic degradation of tattoo pigments may result in the formation of toxic compounds, with unforeseen health risks. A systematic literature review was undertaken to determine the current state of knowledge of tattoo pigments’ degradation products when irradiated with sunlight, laser light or metabolised. The review demonstrates that there is a lack of knowledge regarding tattoo pigment degradation/metabolism, with only eleven articles found pertaining to the photolysis of tattoo pigments and two articles on the metabolism of tattoo pigments. The limited research indicates that the photolysis of tattoo pigments could result in many toxic degradation products, including hydrogen cyanide and carcinogenic aromatic amines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-355
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Volume32
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • tattoo ink
  • tattoo pigment degradation
  • Laser irradiation
  • photolytic degradation
  • metabolic degradation
  • sunlight
  • photolysis
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • carcinogenic aromatic amines

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