Tattoos: Body decoration with risks

Despite their widespread popularity, tattoos have rarely been discussed up to now in connection with health risks. Tattooing can have some undesired effects such as infections, inflammations, scars and allergies. Long-term effects are also possible but hardly any information is currently available. Various research projects at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) are delivering results which are attracting attention all over the world and which are presented in the current issue of the BfR science magazine BfR2GO. "Colour pigments from tattoos do not remain locally restricted to the skin, they migrate in the body," explains BfR President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Through UV light and ageing, some pigments degrade into toxic substances. Readers of the latest issue of BfR2GO can gain an insight into the research and assessment work of the BfR in the field of the health risks of tattoo inks".

BfR2GO 1/2018: (PDF file,9.19 MB)

One important task of the BfR is to inform the general public about possible health-related risks. BfR2GO is a new publication format from the BfR which picks up on important topics concerning consumer health protection. Focus is placed on a topical subject from the field of work of the BfR in each issue of BfR2GO. In the current issue, the main theme is the risk of tattooing. There are also reports, interviews and news from the work areas at the BfR - risk communication, food safety, product and chemical safety and the protection of laboratory animals. Other topics in this issue are kitchen hygiene in TV cookery shows, nudging measures in consumer health protection, “botanicals” for sports enthusiasts, the latest from the European chemicals regulation REACH, the fumigation of ship containers and an interview with the head of the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals at the BfR.

The science magazine BfR2GO appears twice a year in German and English and is published on the BfR website under It can be downloaded free of charge there or ordered directly. If you are interested in obtaining a free subscription to the magazine, you can register per e-mail (

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

The BfR is 15 years old. To mark the occasion, the Institute has published a jubilee brochure which can be downloaded or ordered free of charge at /en/brochures-61045.html.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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