Editorial: Art and the artist

Tattoo artists were up in inked arms over new European Union rules banning thousands of chemicals in their colouring ink.

Tattoo parlors argue that the move is an affront to the craft while the 27-nation bloc strongly believes that tougher regulations on dangerous elements in ink that cause cancer and allergies will better serve public health. The standoff between regulation and freedom of artistic expression has triggered a torrent of complaints and accusations.

The European Commission says alternatives to the banned products do exist but tattoo parlours say they are too slow to make their way from the manufacturers to their shops. Considering that at least 12 per cent of Europeans have tattoos, and double that number in the 18-35 age group, according to EU figures, strict health guidelines were necessary.

The EU’s chemical agency ECHA says that allergic and inflammatory skin reactions ‘are expected to decrease thanks to the restriction.’ It adds that ‘more serious effects such as cancer, harm to our DNA or the reproductive system potentially originating from chemicals used in the inks could also decrease.’

Michl Dirks, who is behind a ‘Save the Pigments’ petition which has already collected 176,000 signatures in the EU objects to such conditional phrasing and insists the ban is not sufficiently backed by science, something which the EU disputes. Erich Maehnert, co-organizer of the petition, said such bans unduly hurt the industry since people will use illegal ways to get the products from third countries. ‘They continue to obtain their tattooing products without any checks and without the possibility of tracing them,’ he said. Others say the small tattoo industry is easily targeted while the tobacco and alcohol industries still hold much more sway.


NT Bureau