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Body art gone wrong

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Thinking of adding a piercing or tattoo to your permanent wardrobe? New reports from Europe highlight potential dangers of body art gone wrong

Thinking of adding a piercing or tattoo to your permanent wardrobe? New reports from Europe highlight potential dangers of body art gone wrong.

Last July, the European Commission released a startling list of health problems and illnesses including tetanus, hepatitis, toxic shock syndrome, tuberculosis, and miscellaneous skin conditions that are associated with this popular beauty treatment.

In Canada, 23 percent of teens aged 12 to 19 have a piercing; eight percent have a tattoo. An additional 20 percent want a piercing, and 21 percent want a tattoo. American figures suggest 73 to 83 percent of adult women have pierced ears. In 2001, 51 percent of surveyed university students had tattoos.

According to the European report, an infection requiring treatment occurs with up to half of all body piercings. With tattoos, concern is not merely about safe hygiene practices, but also about dyes, few of which have been tested for safety.

Most dyes are derived from metals and carry the potential for skin reactions. The colour red, with its mercury base and added chemicals, produces the most reactions flaming, oozing, scaly skin, even years later.

Health Canada's best advice is to choose your tattoo parlour carefully, checking for sterilized equipment and asking about safety procedures:

hc-sc.gc.ca/english/iyh/lifestyles/tattoo.html.

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