CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A University of Virginia doctor is raising concerns about the safety of tattoo ink. He says the inks often contain known cancer-causing agents and toxins, and the FDA doesn't currently regulate it.

Doctor Ryan Smith is a urologist at UVA Medical Center, and many of his friends and family member have tattoos. With new information coming to light about ink ingredients as European union regulators have banned products in the last several years, he says it's time the U.S. followed suit.

"It's been shown in both human studies and in animal models that the pigment itself can migrate from the sties of placement to the lymph nodes, to the bloodstream and even to liver cells...so it's not staying localized where just the tattoo is performed," Dr. Smith said.

In Virginia, ink must be found sanitary by the Department of Professional and occupational Regulation. However, the DPRO doesn't regulate ingredients.

Some tattoo ink brands are known to contain hydrocarbons, which cause cancer in other settings. They also often contain heavy metals like lead and mercury, which can lead to reproductive issues.

In some cases, investigators have found evidence of automotive pain and even printer ink being used in tattoo ink.

"If you're gong to get a tattoo, ask your artist what is in the ink," Dr. Smith said. "In some cases, they may not even know, but it's important for you to know."

Dr. Smith says people planning on getting tattoos should wait until the FDA regulates ink content before getting the work done. If they still want a tattoo, they should talk to their tattoo artist about the ingredients in the ink being used.

"If you wanna get a tattoo, stick with the professionals," said Scott Morris of Scottyrock's Twisted Ink. "That's the only way to be."

In 2019, the European Chemicals Agency adopted an EU-wide regulation limiting the concentration of toxins in ink or banning them entirely in some cases. Dr. Smith says that he'd like to see the FDA follow the EU's lead.