by Kirrily Schwarz news.com.au
MORE Australians are tattooed than ever before.
In fact, according to figures published in the Daily Telegraph, a survey of 1000 Australians last year showed one in five Australians are sporting ink.
However, experts warn we should rethink our love of tattoos.
Researchers from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France say the chemicals in tattoo ink can travel in the blood stream and accumulate in the lymph nodes, obstructing their ability to fight infections.
Their report, published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, noted ink can contain tiny particles of heavy metals such as nickel, chromium, manganese and cobalt, as well as other toxic impurities.
One colour was far more dangerous than the rest.
Titanium dioxide, which is a chemical commonly used to create white ink, is known to increase a person's risk of developing cancer.
It also causes itching, skin irritation, and delayed healing.
"When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlour where they use sterile needles that haven't been used previously," said Hiram Castillo, one of the authors of the study.
"No one checks the chemical composition of the colours, but our study shows that maybe they should."
The reality is very little is known about the potential impurities contained in the different colours of ink applied to the skin.
Scientists in France and Germany used X-rays fluorescence measures to detect the tiny particles, and they reported strong evidence to show tattoo ink migrates around the body before creating deposits.
They believe it is transported in the blood stream.
Only microscopic nanoparticles were actually found in the lymph nodes, which are located in the neck, armpit and groin.
"We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the colour of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo," said Bernhard Hesse, one of the study's other authors.
"What we didn't know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behaviour as the particles at a micro level. And that is the problem: we don't know how nanoparticles react."
They are now planning to do more research to figure that out.