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Tattoo Epidemic?

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Below are some of the results from The Harris Poll among 2,225 US adults surveyed online October 14-19, 2015 about Americans and tattoos.

  • Tattoos are particularly common among younger Americans,

  • Almost half of Millennials (47%) have at least one,

  • Over a third of GenXers (36%) say they have at least one

  • Only 13% of baby boomers claim to have tattoos

  • Almost ten percent of matures are “colored” and

  • Millennials and GenXers are also exponentially more likely than their older peers to have multiple tattoos.

Geographically, country dwellers are just as likely to get tattooed as city dwellers, but suburbanites don’t share the same enthusiasm for the art form. However, suburban parents appear to be influenced by their children, as suburban adults with children are twice as likely to have at least one tattoo as those without children. No major political party seems to favor self-beautification more than the other.

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As tattoos have increased, so has regret. Regret refers to the sometimes poor quality of the artwork, how the appearance fits later lifestyles and interests, and how the content, including names of people, places, and events, is often best left in the past. Of paramount importance is the recognition of some diffuse, previous tattoos that may interfere with current social and financial opportunities and contribute to unwanted health effects.

In the United States, we need to continue studying and publicly releasing the Chemical Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) related to inks commonly used in the tattoo industry. To create tattoos, artists inject the dermis with dye-filled needles at speeds of up to 3,000 times per minute. Recipients should be aware that tattoo inks are applied to the dermis layer of the skin, not to the already dead epidermis. Inks are thus deposited in well-perfused tissues, which is evident from the frequent occurrence of minor bleeding during their application. This also suggests that application of these chemicals is not only local, but is subject to circulatory output and associated acute and chronic effects. Some ink materials that enter the microvasculature are deposited distally in lymph nodes and in the liver as the body tries to rid itself of foreign substances. Locally, tattoos produce permanent, though unmeasured, microscopic scars in the surrounding tissue, particularly in areas of dense sweat glands. Thus, the larger the processed surface area, the greater the potential for dysfunctional sweating and overheating effects. Some people also suffer from infections due to suboptimal cleaning of tattoo needles and/or their own subpar personal hygiene while healing from the procedures.

Recipients volunteer for these procedures and thus could be seen as somewhat masochistic, as tattoos always cause injury. However, they do not deserve inappropriate labeling any more than people who eat too many calories, smoke, drink, or engage in the abuse of pharmaceutical products or other unhealthy practices. Unfortunately, aside from the initial or later new tattoos, many tattoo lovers have their art re-inked (to fade) or modified, adding to their overall burden over and over again. Tattoos are more than skin deep and love (for them) shouldn’t be blind. This is the case given the adverse health effects associated with it a tattoo epidemic?

Thanks to Lee Richards

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