Quantitative analysis of metals and metal-based nano- and submicron-particles in tattoo inks

Chemosphere. 2020 Apr:245:125667. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.125667. Epub 2019 Dec 16.


Exposure to metals and metal-based nano- (NPs, 1-100 nm) and submicron-particles (SPs, 0.1-1 μm) contained in tattoo inks and related health safety is currently receiving a great deal of interest. Twenty inks of different brands and colours were sampled in Italy in 2019. The SemiQuant Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis allowed quantifying the concentration of 18 metals (Al, As, Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Sn, Ti, Zn) in inks. The Single Particle ICP-MS was used to detect the diameters and concentration of NPs and SPs of 9 metals (Al, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, Ti and Zn). Concentration of metals in tattoo inks were below the recommended concentrations reported in the Resolution ResAP (2008)1 indicating ink production have shifted to purer materials and best manufacturing practices. Regarding particles, Al was found at nano- (62-80 nm) and submicron-sizes (105-140 nm). Sizes of Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn were in the intervals 42-62 nm, 44-96 nm, 26-28 nm and 26-59 nm, respectively. Titanium was at submicron-diameters (166-383 nm). In addition, Cr and Ti particles accounted for the 47% and 80% of their total concentration, respectively. Tattooing practice exposed humans to metal-based NPs and SPs and the presence of a combination of particles of different metals and/or their dynamics (e.g., dissolution) may change their bioavailability and toxicity.

Keywords: Concentration; Human exposure; Metals; Nanoparticles; Size; Submicronparticles; Tattoo.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Ink*
  • Italy
  • Metal Nanoparticles / analysis*
  • Metals / analysis*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Tattooing / adverse effects*


  • Metals
  • Metals, Heavy