North Carolina has been regulating tattoo facilities since 1995. Environmental Health inspects them and permits them, but the ink used for tattoos is unregulated.
"What's concerning about tattoo inks is that we really don't know what's going into these tattoo inks," said Dermatologist Dr. Arisa Ortiz.
The FDA reports 7 voluntary recalls of tattoo inks since 2004 - one after 19 people contracted a serious infection from contaminated ink.
In fact, the FDA notes many pigments in inks are "industrial-grade colors" used for "printers' ink or automobile paint.”
"It can cause many different types of problems like just allergic skin rashes or inflammatory reaction or even types of skin cancer. It's important that you are aware of that and don't think it's just harmless paint going into your skin," said Ortiz.
The FDA recently came up with new ways to look for harmful toxins in those inks, and is trying to develop methods to identify just what is in those color pigments.
(© 2016 WFMY)