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CDC Study Links Tattoo Ink to Bacteria Infection

By Modupe Idowu
By midowu@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - One in five people in the U.S have at least one tattoo, and with its growing popularity the chances of infections have increased according to the Centers of Disease Control.

Health officials have linked a series of tattoo infections withing the past year to ink. Colorado, Washington, and Iowa all had outbreaks last year.

Even though the ink has been recalled, there are still risk.

Russell Helton known as "Psycho" to friends has worked in the tattoo business for more than 25 years. He said he has seen a lot of tattoos become problems.

"I've seen people tattooing out of their house. People that don't have health inspections, a lot of them pour ink in to anything. Of course you'll have contaminated ink," said Helton.

What he is not familiar with is the bacteria, non tuberculous Mycobacterial Chalenae. It is known for puffy red rashes that can take months to clear. CDC officials have linked it to ink from Arizona.

"They just said they had to recall some ink. They never said exactly what it was. They had never said what the problem was with the ink," said Helton.

The CDC knows now and just released a study stating the outbreak of skin infections across the country is caused not just by contaminated ink but ink mixed by tattoo artist with non sterile water such as tap and even distilled water.

Helton said, "This silver back we use is a premix gray. It comes in four different shades so there's no mixing required."

The tattoo artist said pre-packeaged and pre-sterilized ink is safer and more convenient. He also said it is important to check the health inspections before getting a tattoo.

Officials said to check to see if tattoo studios are licensed and make sure artists open unused utensils in front of you.

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