Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Permanent tattoos have become increasingly common, with 21% of adults in the United States reporting having at least one tattoo (1). On rare occasions, outbreaks of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) skin infections have been reported after tattooing (2,3). In January 2012, public health officials in New York received reports of Mycobacterium chelonae skin infections in 14 New York residents who received tattoos during September–December 2011. All infections were associated with use of the same nationally distributed, prediluted gray ink manufactured by company A. CDC disseminated an Epi-X public health alert to identify additional tattoo-associated NTM skin infections; previously identified cases were reported from three states (Washington, Iowa, and Colorado). Public health investigations by CDC, state and local health departments, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found NTM contamination in tattoo inks used in two of five identified clusters. All infected persons were exposed to one of four different brands of ink. NTM contamination of inks can occur during the manufacturing process as a result of using contaminated ingredients or poor manufacturing practices, or when inks are diluted with nonsterile water by tattoo artists. No specific FDA regulatory requirement explicitly provides that tattoo inks must be sterile. However, CDC recommends that ink manufacturers ensure ink is sterile and that tattoo artists avoid contamination of ink through dilution with nonsterile water. Consumers also should be aware of the health risks associated with getting an intradermal tattoo.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections - Multiple States, 2011–2012" (2012). Health Science Faculty Publications. 10.
CDC. Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections-Multiple States, 2011-2012. MMWR 2-12; 61:653-56.
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