Save the Pigments: EU Ban on Blue 15:3 and Green 7 | Painful Pleasures Community

Save the Pigments: EU Ban on Blue 15:3 and Green 7

Join the Save the Pigments petition to retract the ban on tattoo pigments blue 15:3 and green 7 today.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: June 17, 2021 2

Two bottles of blue and green tattoo inks containing blue 15:3 and green 7 pigments

If you haven’t already heard, on January 4th, 2021, the European Chemicals Agency (EU) announced a ban on two pigments crucial to tattooing. The banned pigments in question, blue 15:3 and green 7, currently constitute nearly 70% of all tattoo and permanent makeup inks, including not only greens and blues, but reds, purples, browns, and blacks.

While this ban is only now gaining traction in Europe, artists, activists, and ink manufacturers like World Famous Ink and Intenze warn that if the ban goes unchallenged, it will become an international issue.

Navigating this ban will require time, effort, and community. A crucial part of this journey is understanding how this ban came to be and how it impacts the entire tattoo industry.

Why the ban?

Pigments blue 15:3 and green 7 are already prohibited substances in Annex II of the European Cosmetics Regulation, which bans them from being used in hair dyes.

“Under the article which these pigments are banned for all cosmetics, this includes tattoo inks, which are regulated as a cosmetic [product] in most countries,” says Selina Medina, Education and Compliance Manager of the Body Art Alliance (BAA). “This means the source of this regulation is based on other evidence that states these pigments are unsafe. However, [the ban on pigments in cosmetics] is for topical application [only], not [for] injection or digestible usage. This means there is insufficient evidence that these colorants should not be used in tattooing or permanent makeup.”

The German Federal Institute has examined both pigments for a health risk assessment. Ines Schriever, a researcher for the institute, has concluded that both blue 15:3 and green 7 have “a comparatively low level of toxicity.” Additionally, due to a lack of data, a substantial health risk assessment concerning the long-term effects of these pigments could not be conducted.

“The EU has moved to be on the cautious side, and sort of ban anything that has the slightest suggestion that it could be a carcinogen,” says dermatologist and cancer researcher Walter Liszewski, quoted in an article by NPR.

What does this mean for the tattoo industry?

It’s no secret that tattooing has evolved rapidly from a counter-cultural, underground industry to a thriving mainstream one. As indicated in a 2019 Ipsos poll, approximately 40% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have at least one tattoo — and many of those tattoos contain the pigments blue 15:3 and green:7.

Industry-leading tattoo ink manufacturers World Famous Ink and Intenze have warned of the overarching effects of this ban and its effect on the tattoo industry at large, namely the livelihood of tattoo artists (particularly those who specialize in colorwork).

“Bans on colorants such as this will impact the entire supply chain, making it impossible to have or manufacture these colors if others are not determined to be safe,” says Selina Medina.

Eliminating the entire supply chain of these colorants means this tattoo ink ban will affect all countries that practice safe, legal tattooing, and source their tattoo inks from reliable suppliers. With no suppliers to produce tattoo inks with the right colorants, the integrity of this industry is undermined and challenged; we could potentially see risky black-market practices as a consequence.

“Out of desperation, some tattoo artists may make their own inks using liquid dyes or acrylics — and even worse, foreign substances that shouldn’t be placed in a person’s body. We as an industry have evolved past making tattoo inks in bathtubs and blenders, so this is more about industry preservation and legitimization than anything,” says Selina Medina.

While the ban will not take effect for approximately another year, giving artists time to devise alternate solutions and phase out their preferred tattoo ink color, artists are nonetheless encouraged to speak out and fight back.

What can you do to save the pigments?

In defense of safe tattooing practices and tattoo artists’ livelihoods, voices are rising up against the looming ban. An Austrian-based petition known as “Save the Pigments,” or Petition No. 1072/2020, was submitted by tattoo artists Erich Mähnert and Michael Dirks. This petition challenges the ban by demanding the European Commission reassess and re-evaluate their decision.

“We are fighting the regulators [by speaking] their language, in their terms the legal way to support due process and evidence-based facts to change the decision,” says Selina Medina.

An initial petition has been submitted to the European Parliament, raising general awareness on this issue. The new “Save the Pigments” petition is the most successful appeal to be introduced to the European Parliament. Additionally, a council of tattoo artists, including Mähnert and Dirks have sent open letters of protest to each European MEP.

Currently, the “Save the Pigments” petition stands with only 53,000 signatures. According to Mähnert and Dirks, the petition needs more if it will make an impact.

That’s where you come in.  

Whether or not you’re from Europe, a tattoo artist, or collector, this ban affects you. Support the “Save the Pigments petition” today at Moreover, share this blog. Follow @savethepigments on Instagram and repost the information they share.

Protect the integrity of the tattoo industry by lending your voice to save pigments blue 15:3 and green: 7 now.


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Very nice blog post about for dyes and pigments.

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