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Have Tattoos? Scientists Deliver Bad News About That Ink. It’s Polluting Your Body

As someone who has tattoos, I honestly thought the biggest dangers I’d face were regret, job insecurity, and a stern talking-to from my grandmother. But scientists have discovered something far more terrifying than Nana’s what-for: the ink used in tattoos may be migrating to your lymph nodes, polluting them and causing them to swell.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists, who studied 3 tattooed cadavers and 1 non-tattooed cadaver using particle accelerator X-rays, discovered the tattooed cadavers had elevated levels of titanium dioxide in the lymph nodes. The non-tattoed cadaver did not.

Scientists also found much larger ink particles — up to several micrometers in size — in the skin of the tattoed cadavers, but thankfully, these larger particles were not found in the lymph nodes, presumably because they are too big to pass through the lymphatic system.

Still, that any ink at all is invading the lymph nodes and enlarging them is concerning.

So why is this happening?

Researchers believe that when skin is punctured and aggressively infiltrated by ink, as is the case with tattoos, the body’s immune system goes into overdrive trying to kill the foreign substance, much as it does with viruses and bacteria. And because the lymph nodes are responsible for filtering the fluid that carries white blood cells, some of those ink particles that are attacked by the white blood cells inevitably get deposited there.

No more tattoos, then? Not necessarily. This study is the first of its kind, and more studies are needed to determine the validity of its findings and the risks associated with the accumulation of nanoparticles in the lymph nodes.

If you’re the cautious type, it’s probably best to limit or hold off entirely on getting tatted. But if you just can’t live without some ink therapy, hey — you only live once, I suppose. For my part, I’m certainly a little more leery of setting up my next permanent stamp session. But I haven’t ruled it out entirely.

What can I say? I love me some ink.