The pigments used in blue and green inks by tattoo artists have been deemed unsafe by the EU and no alternative currently exists. Photos: Courtesy of Tattoo Zoo

Colour fading from tattoo industry

Blue and green inks could disappear from the pallettes of tattoo artists in Cork and throughout the EU unless an alternative is found in the next year.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Fergal Donnellan, owner of Tattoo Zoo in Cork city, said there is no existing alternative to the blue and green inks which contain chemicals deemed unsafe by the European Union (EU).

If the EU goes ahead with the ban next year, the range of colours available to artists could be reduced by as much as 50 per cent.

Mr Donnellan, who has been tattooing in Cork since 1994, said the pigments in blue and green inks have been deemed unsafe for cosmetic use by the EU and therefore can't be used in tattooing.

However, he maintains there is no scientific evidence that the pigments in question pose any risk.

“There is no proven risk from these colours but how it works in the EU now is, you're guilty until proven innocent, so they have turned around to us and said that we need to prove that they're safe, but that's virtually impossible to do,” said Mr Donnellan.

He continued: “Yet in the EU you can buy cigarettes, you can buy alcohol, you can buy refined sugar where there is loads of scientific proof of the harm they cause.”

His comments come just weeks after the EU imposed a ban on isopropanol alcohol, a common ingredient in many tattoo inks.

Although Mr Donnellan welcomed the ban as “no big deal”, he does feel his industry is being somewhat targeted.

He said: “I opened my shop in 2019 and I looked at every suitable property for rent in Cork and I ended up renting from my own landlord. Nowhere else in Cork would rent to me because I was a tattooist. I experienced that discrimination in 2019, I was told 'We don't want you'. That was three years ago - not 20 years ago - three years ago.”

Mr Donnellan said that if certain aspects of tattooing are made illegal, there is a chance it could “go underground” where he says standards can begin to slip.

He said: “When I started tattooing in 1994, it was still illegal in seven states in America. Where it's illegal, it's put in with prostitution and drugs, it's a vice industry.

“People have always tattooed. It’s a kind of a primal human urge. If you make it illegal, it goes underground and that's when you get people not cleaning the equipment properly and the standards slip.”

Mr Donnellan said if the ban does come in and no alternates are in place, he will not defy the regulations, but other tattooists may not see it that way.

“Then what you're looking at is, people are going to say, 'Well, if I can't get it in Europe, I'll get it from China’. Then you have inks that aren't regulated. That’s just what happens. It’s not right, but it will happen if they ban these colours,” he concluded.

In response to the impending ban, an international online petition called Save the Pigments was launched in January 2021 and as of 10 January 2022, has amassed 177,000 signatures. The petition is accessible at