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A new EU restriction to protect citizens against the use of harmful substances in the production of coloured tattoo inks and permanent make-up enters into force today. Adopted in December 2020, the legislative piece covers some 4,000 substances and aims to ensure citizens across the EU are equally protected from hazardous chemicals that may cause allergies and serious health impacts like cancer.

For millions of Europeans, a tattoo is a means of self-expression. At least 12% of Europeans have them and it is estimated that the number of tattooed people in the EU has more than doubled between 2003 and 2014, from about 30 to 60 million. And yet, until today, no EU-wide regulation existed to protect people with tattoos from hazardous substances found in coloured inks. This meant that obligations for manufacturers or businesses as well as information and protection for citizens getting tattooed varied from a country to another. 

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has welcomed the development of the restriction, which is a positive illustration of the European authorities’ efforts to address and regulate large groups of chemicals for which there is direct human exposure leading to well-founded short- and long-term health concerns. We look forward to further initiatives to address large groups of chemicals, be it by chemical families or use types, in order to promote more efficient and protective chemicals regulation. 

This EU-wide restriction on chemicals in tattoo inks and permanent make-up will contribute to better information and protection for millions of citizens as well as safe innovation in the inks’ market”, explains Natacha Cingotti, Health and Chemicals Programme Lead at HEAL. “For this restriction to truly deliver, it will now be essential that national authorities provide effective guidance to small businesses so that they are able to comply with the new rules.”  


  • In May 2020, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) published a detailed assessment of the proposed restriction. The legal text of the restriction entering into force today can be found here.
  • Further information on chemicals in tattoo inks can also be found on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) here and here
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