Despite fears, tattooing still legal

Word that rules for tattoo ink will be tightened has ink junkies worried that it will be impossible to run a tattoo parlour in Denmark

Planned changes to the way tattoo ink is regulated has led to fears among tattooists and fans of body art that it soon could become impossible to operate tattoo parlours in Denmark.

The new regulations are part of an effort to protect those getting a tattoo from coming in contact with harmful substances. But in a series of articles a doctor has been quoted as saying that tattoo parlours would not be able to live up to the regulations and be forced to shut down.

Fans of body art responded quickly. A Facebook page called ‘Det skal stadig være lovligt og få tattoo i Danmark’ – Keep tattoing legal in Denmark – grabbed 55,000 likes in just five days.

Environmental agency Miljøstyrelsen, which is behind the changes, says the fuss is a tempest in an inkpot.

“The rule change will in no way make it illegal to get a tattoo,” Elisabeth Paludan, of Miljøstyrelsen’s chemical unit, told Politiken newspaper.

According to Paludan, the changes will simply bring Denmark in line with neighbouring countries as part of government efforts to regulate the tattoo industry.

“Germany, Sweden and Norway have introduced similar rules for dangerous inks without tattooists having to close,” Paludan told the tabloid Ekstra Bladet.

Paludan said the new rules are also in line with European Council resolutions for the labelling of tattoo inks.

According to MP Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil (Socialdemokraterne), the doctor that made the dire pronouncements – Jørgen Serup – was spewing “nonsense”.

“I am waiting for him to prove to me that the rules in any way mean that people won't be able to get tattoos,” Rosenkrantz-Theil told Ekstra Bladet

The regulations seek to ban known carcinogens that are found in about one-fifth of coloured tattoo inks, although there is some disagreement as to whether the inks can actually cause cancer.

“We are talking about highly carcinogenic substances that are already prohibited in clothes and cosmetics and other products that touch the skin, so it only makes sense to forbid them in products that go under the skin,” Paludan told Ekstra Bladet.

At least one tattoo parlour agreed the controversy had been blown out of proportion.

“We are taking a wait and see attitude so we can assess what the new law actually entails,” Miks Tattoo in Copenhagen wrote on its Facebook profile. “Right now it looks like a case of media sensationalism.”

Paludan said the new rules would help, not hurt, tattoo artists.

“We believe that this will be good for the industry,” she told Politiken. “There are all sorts of products online with questionable origin and content and this makes it easier for us to go after them. It is our impression that the tattoo industry is also worried.”

The new rules are slated to take effect on January 1.