Tattoo Epidemic?

The following are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online from October 14-19, 2015 regarding Americans and tattoos.

  • Tattoos are especially prevalent among younger Americans,

  • Nearly half of Millennials (47%) have at least one,

  • Over one third of GenXers (36%) allege to have at least one,

  • Only 13% of Baby Boomers claim tattoos,

  • A scant ten percent of Matures are “inked”, and

  • Millennials and GenXers are also exponentially more likely than their more senior counterparts to have multiple tattoos.

Geographically, rural dwellers are just as likely as urbanites to be tattooed, but suburbanites do not share the same level of enthusiasm regarding this art form. However, suburban parents are apparently influenced by their children, since suburban adults with children are twice as likely as those without children to have at least one tattoo. Neither major political party appears to favor self-embellishment more than the other.

With tattoos on the rise, regrets have risen as well. Regrets relate to the sometimes poor quality of the artwork, how the appearance fits later lifestyles, interests, and how the content, including names of people, places and events are often best left in the past. Of most significance is the recognition of some diffuse, past tattoo work may impair current social and financial opportunities and contribute to untoward health effects.

In the United States we need to further study and publicly publish the chemical material safety data sheets (MSDS) related to inks commonly used in the tattoo industry. To produce tattoos, artists inject the dermis with dye-filled needles at rates up to 3,000 times per minute. Recipients should be aware that tattoo inks are placed at the dermal layer of the skin, not the already dead epidermis. So, inks are deposited in well-vascularized tissues, as is evident from the often occurring minor bleeding during their application. This also suggests that the application of these chemicals is not just local, but is subject to circulatory disbursement and related acute and chronic effects. Some ink materials entering the microvasculature are deposited distally into lymph nodes and in the liver as the body attempts to rid itself of foreign substances. Locally, tattoos produce permanent, even if unmeasured microscopic scarring in surrounding tissues, particularly in sweat gland dense areas. So, the larger the surface area worked upon, the greater the potential for dysfunctional perspiration and overheating effects. Some people also experience infections due to suboptimal cleaning of the tattoo needles and/or their own less than stellar personal hygiene while healing from the procedures.

Recipients volunteer for these procedures, and could thereby be considered somewhat masochistic inasmuch as tattoos always cause injury. However, they do not deserve untoward labeling any more than people who consume too many calories, smoke, drink, or engage in pharmaceutical product(s) misuse or any other unhealthy practices. Unfortunately, aside from acquiring the initial or subsequent new tattoos, many tattoo aficionados have their art re-inked (for fading) or modified, recurrently increasing their total exposures. Tattoos are more than skin deep, and love (for them) should not be blind. Given the associated adverse health effects, is this a tattoo epidemic?