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For millions of Europeans, a tattoo can be a means of self-expression. It may also, however, represent a direct source of exposure to a complex cocktail of chemicals. It is estimated that the number of tattooed people in Europe more than doubled between 2003 and 2014, from about 30 to 60 million [1]. And yet, as of today, no EU-wide regulation exists to protect tattoo recipients from hazardous toxins found in tattoo inks.

This could all change soon. On 13 May 2020, the REACH committee is scheduled to discuss a proposal from the European Commission that aims to agree on a restriction covering over 4,000 hazardous chemicals that can be used in tattoo inks or permanent make-up [2]. The Commission already notified the World Trade Organization about its draft regulation that will amend Annex XVII to REACH, on 7 April 2020 [3].

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) have welcomed the proposal on the table, which answers several of the concerns that our organisations have raised throughout the process and strikes a good compromise towards overall enhanced safety of tattoo inks and permanent make-up put on the European market [4].

Natacha Cingotti, senior policy officer for health and chemicals at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said: “Tattoos and permanent make-up can be complex mixtures involving harmful chemicals that stay into the body for life once injected. With a comprehensive restriction of the thousands of substances at play, the EU has an opportunity to prevent unnecessary harm, protect the most vulnerable like young people, and contribute to increased awareness about the long-term health effects of our daily exposure to chemicals.”

Tatiana Santos, chemicals policy manager at the European Environment Bureau (EEB) said: “This restriction is a good example of how authorities can protect people from harmful chemicals by restricting large groups of hazardous chemicals. The Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability that is being drafted by the Commission as part of the Green Deal should prioritise action to swiftly and effectively ban toxic chemicals found in all consumer products.”

A detailed assessment of the latest version of the proposed restriction has been published by EEB and HEAL today [4].

Contact:

Natacha Cingotti, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), natacha@env-health.org

Tatiana Santos, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), tatiana.santos@eeb.org

Notes:

  1. Annex XV Restriction Report (2017) https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/0/restriction_axvrep_tattoo_inks_sps-012420-16_en.pdf/f8c09d52-1f42-9b9c-4a54-90e8c843d205
  2. REACH committee meeting, 13th May 2020, Agenda item 6, “for discussion” https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regcomitology/index.cfm?do=Search.getPDF&ds_id=66988&version=1&AttLang=en&db_number=1&docType=AGENDA
  3. Draft Commission Regulation amending Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards substances in tattoo inks or permanent make-up, 7th April 2020. Available from : https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/tbt/en/search/?tbtaction=search.detail&Country_ID=EU&num=709&dspLang=en&basdatedeb=01/04/2020&basdatefin=21/04/2020&baspays=&basnotifnum=&basnotifnum2=&bastypepays=ANY&baskeywords=
  4. HEAL and EEB’s detailed assessment of the proposal have been summarized in a brief analysis (May 2020) https://www.env-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/May-2020-EEB-HEAL-analysis-tattoo-inks-restriction.pdf.

This analysis builds upon HEAL and EEB publication “Proposed European restriction on tattoo inks and permanent make-up: HEAL and EEB’s final assessment”, September 2019: https://www.env-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/September-2019-HEAL-EEB-assessment-on-proposed-EU-restriction-on-tattoo-inks-format-web.pdf