Hexavalent chromium in tattoo inks: Dermal exposure and systemic risk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The presence of hexavalent chromium (Cr[VI]), which is carcinogenic to humans and a dermal sensitizer, in tattoo inks may represent a serious health concern. The level of this impurity is limited to 0.2 mg/kg in tattoo inks by the European Resolution ResAP(2008)1. Objectives: To analyse 29 tattoo inks, produced in Europe and the United States, of different colours and brands, for Cr(VI) to assess their conformity with ResAP(2008)1 and to characterize dermal and systemic risks. Methods: Ion chromatography and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry were used to determine the levels of Cr(VI) in inks; risk characterization was performed by calculating the systemic exposure dosage (SED) and margin of safety (MoS). Results: Ninety per cent of inks contained Cr(VI) (range: 0.22-4.09 mg/kg), ie, above the maximum allowed level, and no information appeared on the label. More than 1 mg/kg Cr(VI) was detected in 27.6% of inks; these might represent a possible cause of dermal adverse reactions. Exposure to Cr(VI) in inks resulted in negligible SED values and MoS values of >100 (safety threshold), indicating no appreciable systemic risk. Conclusions: The minimization of Cr(VI) contamination and the use of technology compliant with good manufacturing practices is recommended to increase the safety of tattoo inks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-225
Number of pages8
JournalContact Dermatitis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018


  • chromium
  • Cr(VI)
  • exposure assessment
  • risk characterization
  • tattoo inks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Dermatology

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