Tattoo artists say a new pan-EU ban on thousands of chemicals used in color inks could hurt their industry.
Restrictions that took effect on Tuesday apply to substances that can cause cancer or other health problems, especially color inks.
The EU says the rules will reduce the number of side effects.
However, tattoo artists complain that replacement inks are not readily available and may lack the vividness desired by clients.
After two years of hardship caused by the epidemic, many businesses argue that they did not have enough time to adapt.
“The coronavirus, along with the closures that lasted for months, really shook us. Then it comes to the top,” said Hamburg tattoo artist Sebastian Makowski. He told the German press agency the changes were tantamount to a partial ban on his business.
The EU estimates that 12% of Europeans have a tattoo, and it could double for young adults. In Germany alone, it is estimated that one in five people have a tattoo, while in Belgium the government estimates that 500,000 new tattoos are inked each year.
“Genetic mutations and cancer”
In 2020, all Member States adopted updated EU legislation on chemicals, known as REACH. The ban covers 4,000 chemicals, including isopropanol alcohol, a common ingredient in tattoo inks, although officials say substitutes are already available.
According to the European Chemicals Agency, which is involved in drafting the new legislation, the inks could be dangerous, “causing skin allergies and other more serious health effects such as genetic mutations and cancer”.
He insists that the new rules are not intended to ban tattoos and permanent make-up, but simply to make them safer.
Belgian tattoo artist Filippo Di Caprio said he wanted proof that the inks were dangerous: “I don’t see anyone with a serious allergy after a tattoo,” he told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF.
German dermatologist Wolfgang Bäumler told Die Zeit magazine that his colleagues interviewed 3,400 people in a 2010 survey and found that two-thirds complained of reactions immediately after the tattoo, and 6% reported problems lasting several weeks.
The tattoo industry argues that there is no solid evidence of a direct link between tattooing and cancer, and fears that more tattoos could go on the black market due to regulation.
Additional restrictions will be introduced in a year’s time. The EU has given grace to two common colors, blue and green, to allow time for alternatives to be found.