Tag Archives: German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Nanoparticles from tattoo inks circulate through your body

English: Tattoo of Hand of Fatima,. Model: Casini. Date: 4 July 2017, 18:13:41. Source : Own work. Author: Stephencdickson.

For those who like their news in video format, there’s this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news item broadcast on Sep. 11, 2017 (after the commercials),

For those who like text and more detail, scientists at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have produced a study of the (at the nanoparticle scale) inks in tattoos. From a Sept. 12, 2017 news item on phys.org,

The elements that make up the ink in tattoos travel inside the body in micro and nanoparticle forms and reach the lymph nodes, according to a study published in Scientific Reports on 12 September [2017] by scientists from Germany and the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, Grenoble (France). It is the first time researchers have found analytical evidence of the transport of organic and inorganic pigments and toxic element impurities as well as in depth characterization of the pigments ex vivo in tattooed tissues. Two ESRF beamlines were crucial in this breakthrough.

A Sept. 12, 2017 ESRF press release (also on EurkeAlert), which originated the news item, explains further,

The reality is that little is known about the potential impurities in the colour mixture applied to the skin. Most tattoo inks contain organic pigments, but also include preservatives and contaminants like nickel, chromium, manganese or cobalt. Besides carbon black, the second most common ingredient used in tattoo inks is titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment usually applied to create certain shades when mixed with colorants. Delayed healing, along with skin elevation and itching, are often associated with white tattoos, and by consequence with the use of TiO2. TiO2 is also commonly used in food additives, sun screens and paints. Scientists from the ESRF, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Ludwig-Maximilians University, and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt have managed to get a very clear picture on the location of titanium dioxide once it gets in the tissue. This work was done on the ESRF beamlines ID21 and ID16B.

drawing tattookinetics.jpg

Translocation of tattoo particles from skin to lymph nodes. Upon injection of tattoo inks, particles can be either passively transported via blood and lymph fluids or phagocytized by immune cells and subsequently deposited in regional lymph nodes. After healing, particles are present in the dermis and in the sinusoids of the draining lymph nodes. Credits: C. Seim.

The hazards that potentially derive from tattoos were, until now, only investigated by chemical analysis of the inks and their degradation products in vitro. “We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the colour of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo. What we didn’t know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behaviour as the particles at a micro level. And that is the problem: we don’t know how nanoparticles react”, explains Bernhard Hesse, one of the two first authors of the study (together with Ines Schreiver, from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) and ESRF visiting scientist.


Particle mapping and size distribution of different tattoo pigment elements.  a, d) Ti and the Br containing pigment phthalocyanine green 36 are located next to each other. b, e) Log scale mappings of Ti, Br and Fe in the same areas as displayed in a) and d) reveal primary particle sizes of different pigment species. c, f) Magnifications of the indicated areas in b) and e), respectively. Credits: C. Seim.

X-ray fluorescence measurements on ID21 allowed the team to locate titanium dioxide at the micro and nano range in the skin and the lymphatic environment. They found a broad range of particles with up to several micrometres in size in human skin, but only smaller (nano) particles transported to the lymph nodes. This can lead to the chronic enlargement of the lymph nodes and lifelong exposure. Scientists also used the technique of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to assess biomolecular changes in the tissues in the proximity of the tattoo particles.


Ines Schreiver doing experiments on ID16B with Julie Villanova. Credits: B. Hesse.

Altogether the scientists report strong evidence for both migration and long-term deposition of toxic elements and tattoo pigments as well as for conformational alterations of biomolecules that are sometimes linked to cutaneous adversities upon tattooing.

Then next step for the team is to inspect further samples of patients with adverse effects in their tattoos in order to find links with chemical and structural properties of the pigments used to create these tattoos.

Here’s a link to and  a citation for the paper,

Synchrotron-based ν-XRF mapping and μ-FTIR microscopy enable to look into the fate and effects of tattoo pigments in human skin by Ines Schreiver, Bernhard Hesse, Christian Seim, Hiram Castillo-Michel, Julie Villanova, Peter Laux, Nadine Dreiack, Randolf Penning, Remi Tucoulou, Marine Cotte, & Andreas Luch. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 11395 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-11721-z Published online: 12 September 2017

This paper is open access.

Nanosilver risk assessment in Germany and a new approach to risk assessment suggested at Univ. of Michigan

There’s a move to ban the use of nanosilver in food and articles used daily (think of the socks you don’t have to wash very often because they don’t smell) in Germany until there’s been a full risk assessment. From the April 14, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

In its opinion on toxicity aspects of nano silver, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) had recommended to waive the use of nano silver in foods and articles of daily use until the data situation allows for a final assessment of the health risks. Mainly industry objected to this assessment by BfR that enough data were available for the evaluation of the health risks of nano silver in consumer products and foods. For that reason BfR had invited experts from research and science as well as representatives of associations and industry to a workshop in order to discuss existing risks and possible options for a comprehensive consumer protection. “The discussion confirmed the words of caution of BfR”, said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, “because the situation continues to be characterised by the fact that not enough secured scientific findings about the specific effects of nano-sized silver particles are available.

” Metallic silver and different silver compounds are used, for instance, in cosmetic agents as well as in different consumer products, mainly because of their anti-microbial effect. For textiles not only medical/therapeutic applications but increasingly also hygiene aspects play a role. The anti-microbial finishing of textile fibres is mainly to act against odour formation as a result of the microbial decomposition of sweat. In the meantime nano-sized silver particles are increasingly being used. Nano particles are particles with a diameter of less than 100 nanometres.

This is interesting in light of yesterday’s April 14, 2011 posting about the European Commission’s attempts to establish a definition for nanomaterials before any attempts to regulate their use. Then today I came across a posting by Dr. Andrew Maynard, Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor titled Why we don’t need a regulatory definition for nanomaterials. His comments represent a significant shift in opinion since I first started following his work in 2007,

Engineered nanomaterials present regulators with a conundrum – there is a gut feeling that these materials present a new regulatory challenge, yet the nature and resolution of this challenge remains elusive. But as the debate over the regulation of nanomaterials continues, there are worrying signs that discussions are being driven less by the science of how these materials might cause harm, and more by the politics of confusion and uncertainty.

Yet the more we learn about how materials interact with biology, the less clear it becomes where the boundaries of this class of materials called “nanomaterials” lie, or even whether this is a legitimate class of material at all from a regulatory perspective.

In an evidence-driven society, now would be the time to take stock – to ask what the science tells us about risks associated with exposure to materials more generally, and to reformulate the problems we are trying to address when it comes to nanomaterials. But increasingly, evidence is taking a backstage role in the process of developing definitions for regulatory purposes. This was highlighted recently by Henrik Laursen [quoted in my April 14, 2011 posting] , coordinator of the nano team in the European Commission’s environment department, who was reported on Euractiv.com as stating that ultimately, the decision on a regulatory definition of nanomaterials would be a policy decision.

This should ring alarm bells throughout the scientific community.

Andrew has been heavily involved with the nanotechnology effort and discussion for many years. This is the biographical information available from his faculty page (it is by no means comprehensive),

Prof. Maynard is a leading authority on the responsible development and use of emerging technologies. His research interests span identifying, assessing and managing emergent risks, to exploring innovative solutions to established and emerging human health and environmental risks, to equipping people with the tools they need to make informed decisions in the face of risk and uncertainty. Prof. Maynard is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Challenges of Emerging Technologies, serves on numerous review and advisory panels around the world, and has testified on a number of occasions before U.S. Congressional committees.

Andrew explains why his ideas about regulation changed and how he wants to approach it,

Five years ago, the state of the science was such that it still seemed feasible that a regulatory definition of nanomaterials could be crafted. Today, that hope is looking increasingly tenuous. We know that size matters when it comes to understanding the risks presented by materials generally – and particles more specifically – and that characteristics such as physical form and chemistry are also important. But these are relevant from diameters of tens of micrometers – where particles begin to be able to penetrate organisms – down to the nanometer size range. At different length scales, different material-biology interactions lead to different mechanisms of action that have the potential to cause harm in different ways. But there are no rules that are generalizeable to the nanoscale specifically – that much the science is clear on. And this alone calls into question the scientific-basis of enforcing nanoscale-specific regulations.

Rather, the science suggests that we have a bigger task in hand – how do we develop a better understanding of how any particle capable of entering or otherwise interacting with an organism might cause harm, and how do we codify this in evidence-based guidelines that will inform regulation?

Here’s his proposal in a nutshell,

Difficult as it may be given the momentum of current efforts to define nanomaterials for regulatory purposes, now is the time to shift toward evidence-based regulation of sophisticated materials.

Andrew has written a paper about this proposal along with David B. Warheit and Martin A. Philbert, The New Toxicology of Sophisticated Materials: Nanotoxicology and Beyond (behind a paywall), in the journal Toxicological Sciences, (2011) 120 (suppl 1): S109 – S129, doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfq372, in 50th Anniversary Issue.

I am intrigued but not yet convinced. I really must make time to read the paper. In any event, I encourage you to read Andrew’s full posting on the topic.