Tattoos soon without color? Possible ban meets with resistance

Tattoos soon without color? Possible ban meets with resistance

Opinions differ widely on the meaning and aesthetics of tattoos. While some people can’t understand why ink or dyes are immortalized under the skin as body art, for others going to the tattoo artist is almost as normal as going to the hairdresser.

Tattoos have long since ceased to be the exclusive mark of certain groups. There seems to be almost no limit to the imagination in the motif and design of the body ornaments. As far as the choice of color motifs is concerned, however, the rough freedom could soon be over, at least within the EU.

Tattoo scene sounds the alarm

The european chemicals agency (ECHA), based in helsinki, has recommended that more than 4,000 substances of concern be restricted in tattoo colors and permanent makeup. Including the color pigments blue 15 and green 7, which are contained in two-thirds of all tattoo colors.

The tattoo scene is already sounding the alarm: "if there is a ban, over 60 percent of color motifs will no longer be possible, at least officially", says tattoo artist jorn elsenbruch from north rhine-westphalia. From his point of view, the ban is nonsensical. It has not been scientifically proven that the color pigments are harmful to health. "In 25 years I have not experienced a serious problem with pigments", so elsenbruch.

The substances of concern are already taboo in cosmetics according to a corresponding EU regulation. ECHA’s position is clear: what cannot be used on the skin cannot be used under the skin.

In the specific case of blue 15 and green 7, the agency is concerned about two things: first, the concerns are related to the substances’ bladder cancer risk, and second, an ECHA committee has concluded that the information about the pigments is insufficient to guarantee safe use.

Arguments that do not justify a ban from the point of view of many tattoo artists. An online petition initiated by elsenbruch is running until sunday under the title #savetattoocolors. He has already won over more than 143,000 supporters, including, according to the initiative, several prominent soccer players.

This means that the petitions committee of the bundestag will discuss the demands of the signatories in a first step. "We call on the federal government and the bundestag to avert an EU ban", says elsenbruch. The initiative also calls on politicians to enter into dialogue with the tattoo scene. "We don’t want anything dangerous in tattoo colors", emphasizes the 53-year-old. "If tests confirm that the pigments in question are harmful to health, we can talk about a ban."

Tattooing should become "safer

Banning the pigments just like that would destroy the health standards that have been painstakingly built up over the past few years, elsenbruch fears. "Because of a ban, the scene will not do without the pigments green 7 and blue 15." Tattoo artists would get the colors from abroad or the black market would fill the gap with colors that are not labeled. "Then we will be back to where we were 25 years ago in terms of regulation.", the tattoo artist is sure.

The ECHA says it is primarily concerned with the well-being of the citizens of burgenland. "Neither the commission nor ECHA is proposing to ban tattoos or tattoo colors, or even to ban blue and green colors in tattoos.", said an ECHA spokesman in response to a question from the german press agency. "Our goal is to make tattooing safer for the consumer."

This goal also pursues the federal government. The federal ministry of food and agriculture says that its central concern is the protection of consumer health on a scientific basis. "The federal government will use itself in this sense with the discussions in the responsible committees in brussel."

In april the EU countries will discuss a ban. In the short term, however, the tattoo scene will by no means have to do without green 7 and blue 15. Before the ban takes effect, there will be a transitional period of several years to find alternatives for the two pigments. But according to elsenbruch, there won’t be one. "Research has been going on for ten years without success. The planned transition period is a contradiction for the tattoo artist anyway, which shows the nonsense of the ban: "if something is supposed to be dangerous, you can’t take two years to look for alternatives"."