Beware Bad Tattoo Ink, FDA Warns

A new report may make you think twice about getting a tattoo. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some tattoo inks may be infected with bacteria. If injected into the skin, this ink could cause a painful skin or even blood infection.

The FDA says it recently learned that tattoo kits sold by White and Blue Lion, Inc. may contain bacterial contamination. According to the FDA’s Dr. Linda Katz, who works in the agency’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, these contaminated inks have already led to at least one serious infection. The “FDA has confirmed one case of skin infection involving a consumer that used this company’s tattoo products,” Katz said. “We are aware of other reports linked to tattoo products with similar packaging.”

Katz added that an infection could lead to redness, swelling, blemishes, and excessive pain at the site of the tattoo. She advises anyone experiencing these symptoms to immediately seek medical care. If left untreated, an infection could intensify and result in permanent scarring of the tissue. In some cases, it may even lead to an infection of the bloodstream (known as sepsis), which can result in fever, chills, and sweats. Leaving treatment to this stage could require hospitalization and surgery.

People with pre-existing heart or circulatory conditions, diabetes, or compromised immune systems are most susceptible to infection, Katz says.

The FDA recommends people in the market for a tattoo ask a tattoo artist if they’re aware of the contamination. If not, it may be wise to hold off on getting that tattoo.

The FDA also wants people who have suffered an infection to report the matter as soon as possible. “Reporting an infection to [the] FDA and the artist is important in order for [the] FDA to investigate, and to enable the artist to take steps to prevent others from becoming infected,” noted FDA epidemiologist Katherine Hollinger.


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