The microscopic particles present in tattoo ink can travel inside the body and wind up in the lymph nodes, findings of a new study revealed.

The lymph nodes serve a crucial role in the proper functioning of the body's immune system such as filtering foreign particles and cancer cells.

Tattoo Ink Particles Found In Skin And Lymph Nodes Of Tattooed Corpses

For the study reported in Scientific Reports on Sept. 12, Wolfgang Bäumler, from University Hospital Regensburg in Germany, and colleagues used X-ray fluorescence to study the skin and lymphatic tissues of four deceased tattooed individuals.

The researchers found ink particles in both the skin and lymph nodes of two of the corpses. Chemical analysis likewise revealed elevated levels of nickel, copper, aluminum, chromium, and iron in the lymph nodes and skin of the tattooed individuals.

Tattoo inks contain molecules from preservatives and contaminants such as nickel and chromium.

Nanoparticles Make Their Way Into Lymph Nodes

The researchers in particular found that pigments and toxic elements that made their way into the lymph nodes were in the form of nanoparticles.

"We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the color of the tattoo," said study researcher Bernhard Hesse, of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France.

"What we didn't know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behavior as the particles at a micro level."

High Levels Of Titanium Dioxide In Lymph Nodes And Skin

The tattooed corpses were also found to have higher levels of titanium in their nodes and skin, which the researchers do not think come from the usual sources of TIO2 such as cosmetics and sunscreen.

Titanium dioxide, or TIO2, is commonly used as ingredient in tattoo ink alongside carbon black. TIO2 is a white pigment used to create certain shades when it is combined with colorants. It is often used in paints, sunscreens, and food additive. Use of TIO2 has been associated with a number of negative side effects such as skin itching and elevation, and delayed healing.

The researchers said that the next step would be to find evidence of adverse effects of these toxic elements in the body.

"Altogether we report strong evidence for both migration and long-term deposition of toxic elements and tattoo pigments as well as for conformational alterations of biomolecules that likely contribute to cutaneous inflammation and other adversities upon tattooing," the researchers wrote in their study.

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