Brussels has introduced sweeping new restrictions on potentially harmful chemicals which could result in blue and green tattoos being banned. On Tuesday, the European Commission introduced new restrictions outlawing more than 4,000 previously unregulated substances inks. The chemicals are being policed under the EU’s REACH chemical legislation due to fears they could cause cancer or other illnesses.
In a statement, the EU said many of the chemicals found in tattoo inks were “carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances”.
The bloc argued the tough new regulations were needed because 12 percent of Europeans are now inked, according to its own figures.
But tattoo artists have warned the introduction of these restrictions will hit the Covid-stricken industry “like a bomb”.
Suppliers are scrambling to source alternative inks in the wake of the announcement.
However, there are widespread concerns among tattoo artists and business owners that they may be forced to shut their parlours until suitable alternatives are found.
There are currently no known alternatives for blue and green inks, sparking fears this new legislation could spell the end of tattoos using these colours.
Marjolein Petit, who works at the family-run Duck Art Tattoo studio in Mechelen, Belgium, told the Telegraph: “It’s hitting like a bomb.
“Lots of people were aware that REACH was coming but they didn’t know that the impact on the tattoo industry was this big.
“Tattoo artists are worried about their future and the future of their businesses.”
She added that he has already had to turn customers away because of shortages caused by the restrictions.
Advocates of the regulations argue that alternatives to the banned chemicals do exist and suppliers have until next year to source replacements for blue and green inks.
However, suppliers say the products are already too slow getting from manufacturers to shops as the businesses wind down.
The consultation period for the REACH chemical legislation began in 2016 and the official regulation was made public in December last year.
The Commission’s chief spokesman said: “This is not something which is either a surprise or a complete novelty.
“It is a sort of generalisation of practice which is already existing in quite a few member states.”
However, Michl Dirks, one of the organisers of the “Save the Pigments” petition which has collected over 176,000 signatures, says the ban is not backed by science.
The ban could also push desperate business owners to secure supplies illegally from foreign countries, according to another organiser of the campaign, Erich Maehnert.
He said: “They continue to obtain their tattooing products without any checks and without the possibility of tracing them.
Meanwhile, there are also concerns the new rules could result in a bigger danger to public health if the industry is forced underground.
Manufacturers are struggling to order alternatives and three-quarters of Belgian tattoo shops do not have a supply of ink that conforms with the new regulations, according to the nation’s union of tattoo artists.
Ms Petit said: “We already see lots of tattooists going to work behind closed doors and shutting their parlours.
“The fact that Europe is making tattooing a very hard business, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact they don’t understand how the industry works… it’s like a Pandora’s Box opening now.”