Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Health minister concerned about toxic tattoo inks

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Health Minister Tony Ryall has expressed his concern about the high rate of tattoo inks used in New Zealand which contain unsafe levels of toxic metals.

Mr Ryall was challenged in the House today about safety measures for tattoo parlours and the materials they used.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart asked whether he was concerned about the level of "heavy metal" in tattoo inks.

She believed young New Zealanders were increasingly getting back-alley tattoos from unlicensed operators and were exposing themselves to infection and scarring.

Mr Ryall said the Government had introduced new standards in 2011 through the Environmental Protection Agency which put controls on inks and set voluntary guidelines for managing and storing tattoo materials.

But he added that he was concerned about a recent EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) survey which found that nine of 18 brands did not comply with EPA guidelines because of the level of heavy metals found in them.

"Many people may not be aware that tattoo inks may pose harm from the chemicals from which they're made," Mr Ryall said.

The minister said the results of the EPA survey had been published to inform tattoo artists and people deciding whether to get a tattoo.

Ms Stewart asked whether Mr Ryall would consider restricting the sale of tattoo inks to licensed artists.

Mr Ryall said if it was clear that the industry was not responding to the voluntary guidelines introduced by the EPA, then further Government regulation could be required.

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