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Europe's tattooists are sounding the alarm: in two years the colors blue and green may no longer be used. The pigments are said to be carcinogenic. What is it about this claim?
At the beginning of the year, the colors "blue 15" and "green 7" were banned in the EU. But there is a transition period: the industry now has two years to look for alternatives before the ban comes into effect. Around 1,400 tattoo artists would be affected in Austria. And many customers would also have to forego popular styles and motifs. According to a survey, around 24 percent of all Austrians are tattooed.
The reason for the excitement? The two colors are said to be carcinogenic. The pigments enter the bloodstream through the tattoos and are suspected of causing bladder cancer. For this reason, the two pigments have not been used in hair dyes for a long time.
"200 tattoo inks are affected by the ban."
The European Chemicals Agency ECHA points out a potential health hazard: "We don't want to ban tattoos, we want to make them safer," it says on the website. The agency was commissioned by the EU Commission to examine the substances. After all, there is little data available and there are major health concerns. According to the ECHA, more than 4,000 substances have been discovered that could harm customers' health. But what is the study situation like? After all, the colors have been in use for years.
Blue & Green - Really Harmful?
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment refers to a "comparatively low toxicity". Even if the data is not "complete", the chemical dyes that are injected are not the healthiest for the body - that much is certain. "There is a connection between the colors and cancer, but the substances are not necessarily the cause of the disease," explains Paul Sevelda, President of the Austrian Cancer Aid. The suspicion arose from experiments with cell cultures - there is no clear evidence in humans, according to the expert.
He expresses major concerns about red pigments: "The iron contained in them can heat up during MRI examinations," says Sevelda. "The color is not dangerous per se. But in diagnostics it can be problematic under certain circumstances." Why is there a ban on suspected cases? "You always have to consider the proportionality. Tattoos are not essential. The tolerance limit for dangerous substances must therefore be kept low."
The tattoo scene is resisting
The industry shaken by the Corona crisis is now facing a major challenge. About 60 percent of all tattoo inks are affected by the regulation. The ban comes close to threatening the existence of many artists - especially for those who are known for their colorful motifs, says Sofian Meherzi from the Opus Magnum tattoo studio in Vienna: "Our 'Fineline' and 'Black and Gray' artists are only marginally affected, but with colored human and animal portraits as well as with the 'watercolor' style a ban would be an unthinkable cut."
Rumors about a possible end for the colors had been around for a long time. But then it hit the industry all of a sudden. "It would be better to work out a solution with the industry in good time," said Meherzi. "We would have hoped that there would already be alternative products."
Erich Mähnert, co-initiator of a petition against the EU regulation goes even further and even warns against loss of control: "Customers are pushed to other EU countries or - worse - to a botch who then orders the desired colors from China on eBay" the tattooist told the press. It is still unclear where the industry could get the new pigments. In any case, the black market could boom after this ban.
Perhaps the law will be overturned before the start-up. The petition is also supported by politicians: EU mandate Alexander Bernhuber (EPP) speaks out against the new provision: "This endangers the business of hardworking people without the Commission clearly stating which colors are safe."