The Chemistry of Tattoo Ink

It seems these days you can’t go a block without seeing someone who has a tattoo. A 2012 Harris Interactive Poll reveals that 1 in 5 adults have tattoos, up from 14% in 2008. People are turning their bodies into canvases of artwork used to express their past, present, and future. When I went to get my first chemistry-related tattoo, I realized I didn’t know anything about the chemical composition of what I have been permanently putting in my body for four years. So, as any chemist would do, I did some research and found that, chemically, there is little known about the contents of most inks that artists are using. This troubled me, as I think it is important to understand exactly what the tattoo ink contains and what it could be doing to our bodies. The exact chemical components involved are not always explicitly stated, but what…

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