Ink stink: Tattooists fear shutdown amid new laws


Queensland tattooists fear they will be forced underground as a bill before parliament proposes new laws which artists say will zap the colour out of their industry.

The Economics and Governance Committee is due to return its report to parliament this Friday after Treasurer Cameron Dick introduced the Debt Reductions and Savings Bill in March, saying cancerous chemicals had been found in inks. The bill includes proposed amendments which would make it a requirement for tattoo ink manufacturers to provide a Compliant Analysis Certificate with each batch produced.

There are no manufacturers of tattoo ink in Australia and artists believe a Queensland requirement for a certificate could be crushing.

Australian Tattooists Guild vice president Tashi Edwards said there was a "very real concern" that tattoo artists could lose access to majority of their ink supplies.

The guild's petition opposing the requirement gathered more than 37,000 signatures in five days.

"It could push the industry underground and if it is picked up nationally then overseas manufacturers will be under so much pressure from Australia that they will wash their hands with us entirely," Ms Edwards said.

Method Tattoo owner Craig Goss working on client Shaun Bennett. Picture: David Clark
Method Tattoo owner Craig Goss working on client Shaun Bennett. Picture: David Clark

Mr Dick in March told state parliament proposed amendments to the Medicines and Poisons Act would make it an offence in Queensland for tattooists to use ink without being reasonably satisfied that a certificate had been prepared.

"Carcinogenic chemicals have been identified in some tattoo inks, and there are concerns that people tattooed with these inks may be at an increased risk of developing cancer," Mr Dick said.

"The requirement for a compliant analysis certificate will minimise public health risks by ensuring tattoo inks do not contain any substances that could be harmful to health."

An enquiry sent to Mr Dick this week asking which studies his claims were based on was forwarded to Health Minister YvetteD'Ath.

"We welcome feedback on these proposed measures through the parliamentary committee process," she said.

"The Bill is currently before state parliament and we look forward to seeing the committee's report."

A fact sheet published by Queensland Health stated a Commonwealth agency conducted surveys between 2014 and 2016 which identified harmful substances including carcinogenic chemicals, heavy metals and bacterial contamination in inks used in Australia.

Queensland Health has previously issued recommendations to suppliers to voluntarily recall tattoo inks on the basis of recalls in Europe and the US where more than 270 tattoo ink products have been recalled since 2008.

"To ensure that body art and cosmetic tattoo inks continue to be safe and fit for purpose, a departmental standard has been set prescribing the maximum allowable concentrations of specified chemical substances such as, lead, arsenic, mercury, carcinogens,etc. that may be present in tattoo inks," A Queensland Health spokeswoman said.

"The departmental standard is based on the European regulation for tattoo inks because Europe has the most contemporary tattoo ink regulations."

Method Art Tattoo owner Craig Goss said tattoo artists feared they would lose a huge portion of their colour range if Queensland also followed Europe in banning two commonly-used green and blue pigments.



The European Chemicals Agency in January announced there would be a two-year transition period for the ban on blue 15:3 and green 7 which constituted almost 70 per cent of all tattoo inks including reds, purples, browns, and blacks.

The ban is not included in the bill before Queensland parliament but Mr Goss said there needed to be more transparency with tattoo artists so they knew how they would be impacted.

"We have fought so hard to survive through the pandemic and this is just a slap in the face," Mr Goss said.

"The artists I know are all incredibly fussy about the inks they use and care about the clients' health and doing the best job. That's how we stay alive.

"But more research needs to be done here and we need more consultation on regulations."

If the proposed amendments are passed then manufacturers, suppliers and businesses will have 12 months to comply.

Mr Goss said people would cross the border or fly to Bali to get inked if Queensland artists couldn't obtain supplies.



Originally published as Needle match: Tattoo artists fear shutdown amid ink laws

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