FDA warns of contaminated tattoo ink

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Thursday, August 6, 2015
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The FDA is warning tattoo artists and patrons against a brand of tattoo ink that was recently recalled.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPVI) -- The FDA is alerting tattoo artists and consumers not to use some shades of ink sold by a company called "A Thousand Virgins."

Tests on unopened bottles turned up types of bacteria and mold which can cause serious infections.

The company recalled the inks earlier this week, but the FDA is concerned they're still being used, and for sale online.

The inks in question are grey wash shades labeled G-1, G-2, and G-3.

They are from lot #129, and have a January 2016 expiration date.

The inks are sold separately and in sets.

The FDA says if you have them, don't use them.

This is a portion of a Q&A from the FDA:

FDA has tested unopened bottles of these inks and found contamination with a human pathogen, Mycobacterium chelonae, as well as Microbacterium organisms, and the molds Cryptococcus albidus and members of the Penicillium genus.

What are the Symptoms of Illness/Injury?

When tattoo ink contaminated with mycobacteria is injected into the skin, the bacteria can cause an infection that remains at the site or that may spread throughout the body.

Such infection might result in redness; swelling; itching; raised pink, red, or purple blemishes in the tattoo; or pain in the tattoo that does not go away.

If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment. You may also notice swollen and tender lymph nodes, at sites local and distant to the infected tattoo.

These infections can be severe and may require extensive treatment with antibiotics, hospitalization, or surgery.

Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening body-wide infection of the blood, has been reported in cases of injection of contaminated tattoo inks.

Once the infection has healed, the area may remain permanently scarred.

Who is at Risk?

Because tattooing involves injecting ink under the skin, the use of contaminated inks may lead to an infection.

People with pre-existing medical conditions, including heart or circulatory disease, diabetes, or patients with compromised immune systems, are particularly vulnerable.

What Do Consumers and Tattoo Artists Need To Do?

If you have used these inks and adverse events occur, contact the manufacturer and the FDA.

Tattoo artists should not dilute inks with tap water, distilled water, filtered water, reverse osmosis water, or other non-sterile water that has the potential to be contaminated.

In addition, consumers and tattoo artists should purchase inks from reputable manufacturers who source their ink ingredients appropriately and can attest to using good manufacturing practices.

If you are a tattoo artist and are applying body art, advise your clients to monitor the application site closely and seek medical care if they notice redness, swelling, itching, bumps, or blemishes, or have pain in the tattoo site that does not go away.

Please ask your clients to contact you, the artist, if they experience any of these symptoms, so you may remove the potentially contaminated ink from use.

They should also seek medical care for their symptoms.

People with infected tattoos and tattoo artists whose clients notify them of potentially infected tattoos can report adverse events or side effects through the MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.