Tattoos: Are They Good for the Environment?

Tattoo inks often contain lead and other heavy metals that could be a concern for inciting allergies. . IvanRiver/Shutterstock

Planet Green recently looked into the topic and found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate "any tattoo inks for injection into the skin, and many ink pigments used are industrial strength colors suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint.” The American Academy of Dermatology further details traditional tattoo ink’s not-so-green ingredient list: “Tattoo pigments may contain industrial organic pigments, including azo and polycyclic compounds, sandalwood and brazilwood, as well as aluminum, cadmium, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, silica, sulphur, titanium dioxide and barium sulphate, each of which may be the cause of a skin reaction like a rash or be toxic.”

Additionally, some black ink used in tattooing is animal bone burned down to charcoal while the “carrier” solution in the ink may contain glycerin derived from animal fat. So while your cousin may not eat any animal products, he’s certainly found a unique way to wear them.

Who knows, perhaps some people are aware that the ink they're having permanently injected a millimeter into their dermis isn’t exactly aligned with an eco-friendly lifestyle? Maybe tattooing is a special eco-concession?

That said, there are several vegan-friendly tattoo parlors where no animal-based inks are used. There are several out there including Scapegoat Tattoo in Portland, Ore., Daredevil and FunCity Tattoos, both in New York, and Only You Tattoo in Atlanta. There’s a full list of such business over at Apparently, veganism and tattooing often go hand in hand, with many tattoo artists themselves abiding by strict vegan lifestyles.

So there you go ... something to think about the next time you're thinking about getting inked.