The Ministry of Health surveyed tattoo inks to assess whether the tattoo inks supplied by established (mainstream) manufacturers or suppliers of tattoo ink supplies complied with the maximum concentrations of heavy metals recommended by the Environmental Protection Authority's Guidelines for Tattoo and Permanent Make-up Substances. There were 169 inks tested, from 18 different brands, and covering 118 colour-variants. Inks were selected from a range of established brands that were commercially available (in most cases, directly from the manufacturer’s or suppliers’ website). Some brands also had New Zealand-based suppliers.
The tattoo inks were analysed for arsenic, barium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium (VI), copper soluble, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, antimony, tin and zinc. These chemicals are heavy metals listed in the Environmental Protection Authority's Guidelines and were tested because they are known to be of public health significance, and testing is readily available. The survey did not test for other compounds that may be present in, or added to, the inks.
The colour samples analysed were generally compliant with the maximum permissible levels of heavy metals specified in the Guidelines. All samples tested complied with cobalt, selenium and chromium (VI) guideline levels.
For the other metals there was variable compliance.