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J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2004 May;2(5):350-3.

[Elemental analysis of tattoo dyes-is there a potential risk from tattoo dyes?].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Institut für Pathologie an den Berufsgenossenschaftlichen Kliniken Bergmannsheil, Universitätsklinik, Ruhr Universität Bochum.



Tattoo dyes in current use can cause foreign body reactions.


There are no rules regulating the composition of tattoo dyes. We performed elemental analysis on a series of dyes obtained from tattoo studios to determine if any dangerous materials were present. The composition of the dyes was determined using scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDS). This technique demonstrates bets the presence of elements of the sodium family and proves the presence of various metals. It provides no insight in chemical structures or bonds.


Elemental analysis revealed multiple metallic components in the dyes; these materials may be responsible for persistent foreign body reactions even years after being placed in the skin. Silicon, aluminium, titanium and copper were found in various yellow, green and red dyes. The composition of various dyes of the same colour from different sources was highly variable.


The tattoo dyes currently in use contain a number of components which cannot be regarded as "tissue inert". Chronic foreign body reactions can be expected even after many years.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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