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Are Tattoos Toxic?

Are Tattoos Toxic?

Q: Is the ink from tattoos dangerous for my health?

A: There’s very little evidence that tattoo ink is hazardous to your health (unless you count the mental stress that comes from the regret of having one done). When tattoo ink is injected into the epidermis, the skin reacts by protectively encapsulating the alien clumps of pigment in dense fibrous tissue and nearby lymph nodes collect what migrates out of the tissue. Low levels of carcinogens (cancer causing substances) have been identified in the ink, so as this ink sits trapped under the skin, you may be putting the nearby cells at risk.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food, raise goats, and make goat milk soap on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


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8:02PM PST on Jan 29, 2014

Thank you.

9:04AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Always wanted one but always chickened out!

10:34AM PST on Nov 27, 2013


11:19AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Thank you

12:53AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

I've never been big on tattoos and don't have any and though they're deemed to be safe, I think I'll pass on getting any at all. Thanks.

12:38AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

i’ve got many tattoos and have NEVER had any problems/issues. i know how to look after them while they heal, in the sun, after bathing etc. the only time they ever have a question mark near them is if/when i have an mri scan as some inks can contain metals. but i’ve checked with my tattooist, again READ the labels on them; and can definitely say they contain NO metals and so are not hazardous or dangerous to my health. and no, i won’t regret them. my oldest one is almost 10 years old and i’m still as proud of it as i was when i had it done. they are all my own designs so a lot of thought has gone into them; and then the saving up for them as well. so no chance of regretting them. try finding another way to grind my nerve!

7:22PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

Say what you will about the safety of tattoos, all I know is that tattoos were all the rage among sailors on whaling ships in the 1800's and today all of them are dead!

12:15AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

I won't be getting one but thanks :)

10:14PM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Daniel W., get an education...and a brain transplant. Your statement is indicative of an extremely prejudicial and narrow point of view.

My father had a tattoo and worked hard all his life. He never believed in credit, paid cash for everything, including his home as he was building it, so he never had a mortgage, and he never took a handout from anyone. He never hesitated to help others, however. My sister and her husband have tattoos. My boyfriend and I have tattoos. My niece and cousins have tattoos. Many of my co-workers have tattoos. ALL of us are gainfully employed and well-respected in the companies where we have worked for many years.

5:36AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

I'd never get one....

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