Body art continues to grow in popularity. In fact, a recent published report showed 1 in 5 adults are considering or have a tattoo. But did you know there is a downside to getting inked?

A potentially dangerous skin infection is going around and health officials all across the Garden State are on full alert as a precaution.

According to figures by the Centers For Disease Control, 21% of adults in the US report having one tattoo. In the last few months, the Nontuberculous Mycobacterial, or NTM, skin infections has reared its ugly head in four states. They include New York, Colorado, Washington and Iowa. Although New Jersey isn't one of them, officials are taking a pro-active approach just in case.

Leslie Terjesen with the Ocean County Health Department says, "The nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) skin infections were associated with use of the same nationally distributed, prediluted gray ink. Although there is no specific Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory requirement that explicitly provides that tattoo inks must be sterile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that ink manufacturers ensure ink is sterile and that tattoo artists avoid contamination of ink through dilution with non-sterile water. Consumers should be aware of the health risks associated with getting an intradermal tattoo."

The OCHD is taking every step possible to ensure the safety of tattoo artists and tattoo recipients. The OCHD has placed calls to each body art establishment to inform them of the issues concerning tattoo-related skin infections in addition to sending a letter including an article on the skin infections to each body art establishment.

Other health departments around New Jersey are taking similar measures.

Recommendations to tattoo artists include:

  • Avoid using products not intended for use in tattooing
  • Avoid ink dilution before tattooing, and if dilution is needed, use only sterile water
  • Avoid use of non-sterile water to rinse equipment (e.g., needles) during tattoo placement
  • Follow aseptic techniques during tattooing (e.g., hand hygiene and use of disposable gloves)

To reduce their risk for infection, consumers should:

  1. Use tattoo parlors registered by local jurisdictions
  2. Request inks that are manufactured specifically for tattoos
  3. Ensure that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic practices
  4. Be aware of the potential for infection following tattooing, and seek medical advice if persistent skin problems occur
  5. Notify the tattoo artist, the Ocean County or State Health Department, and FDA's MedWatch program at FDA's MedWatch program's website if they experience an adverse event