More and more people are getting tattoos on various parts of the body, with the percentage of tattooed people in the USA increasing from 14% in 2008 to 21% in 2012. By now one in five people has at least one tattoo. But tattoo inks are responsible for specific health problems.
The US health authority (FDA) is concerned about bacteria called nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), found in a recent outbreak of infections related to contaminated tattoo inks. One of these mycobacterium species can cause lung disease and joint infections that are difficult to diagnose and that may require treatment for six months or more. The contaminated inks were manufactured in several different states and no source has yet been identified. The FDA is conducting an information campaign among tattoo artists, doctors and consumers to encourage the reporting of incidents to the health authorities. Furthermore, the FDA is also reminding people that specific post-tattoo recommendations are not effective against these organisms.