Health Risks of Black Henna Tattoos

The Florida Health Department is issuing advisory against the use of Black Henna tattoos, with the onset of spring break season, according to the Outbreak News blog. Henna is not naturally black in color, and is usually a reddish powder that turns brown when water is added and it is allowed to stand for a while. To induce the black color, a pigment, called para-phynelenediamine is added to it.

Short term exposure to PPD may precipitate dermatitis, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions and even coma in human beings. The effect of chronic exposure to it are not known in man, though in experimental rats it has been shown to only cause a failure to gain weight, and nothing else.

“About two years ago I had a reaction to a “henna” design of a dragon. The colour faded quickly which surprised me, and about two weeks afterwards my skin welted up about a quarter of an inch in the exact pattern of the dragon. The itching was bad enough to keep me awake at night for several days. The swelling went away, but the pattern stayed for almost a year.

The carcinogenicity of PPD is unknown and its effect on the reproductive or developmental processes are also not clearly known. PPD is basically an allergen that evokes histamine release and a cell-mediated immune response, leading to a cascade which may precipitate the above mentioned conditions.

The primary method of prevention is to ban or restrict the use of PPD in tattooing chemicals, and increasing user awareness so that they may demand to know the composition of the dye being used for tattoo.

“This is how my daughter’s PPD black henna tattoo turned after returning from Bali The worst of it though is she has been feeling ill for the whole week that we have been home. Muscle weakness, headaches, sore throat, stomach ache and light headedness. We are off to the doctors today to show them this information on PPD to see if her symptoms are related.”
This tattoo was applied on the 20th April 2001. This photograph was taken 10 days later “Thought you might like to see how they (the black henna tattoos) look today. The one on her arm is now 1 week and 3 days old.

Images from: East on West, Black Henna Warning

Soft Tissue Infection Outbreak in Scotland Amongst Users of Intravenous "Legal Highs"

“Legal Highs” are produced by new psychoactive substances which have properties similar to ¬†illicit psychoactive substances but have not yet been classified as illegal, and are available over anonymous internet stores. One of the most commonly abused legal highs is a stimulant called Ethylphenidate, which is also sold under the trade name “Burst”, and has been linked to a number of soft tissue infections in users who take it by the intravenous route.

Ethylphenidate is available in a drug form and maybe either snorted or dissolved in liquids and then injected IV. However, it has a very short duration of action, around 1.5 hours, which makes the user dose on it multiple times. According to the news report in The Herald Scotland, in extreme cases, the users may shoot up as many as thirty times in a day.

These soft tissue infections are usually the result of contaminated diluent liquid, contaminated needles, shared needles or syringes or even contaminated drug. The common infections associated with Burst injection includes life threatening ones such as gas gangrene, necrotising fasciitis, anthrax, botulism or tetanus.


Leishmaniasis Outbreak in ISIS Held Raqqa, Syria

Leishamaniasis, a disease caused by Leishmania donovani, and spread by the sand fly, is reportedly raging through the capital of the Caliphate held by ISIS, Raqqa, Syria. Newspaper reports contend that there may be as many as 2,500 cases of Leishmaniasis in the city, which has become the focus of military strikes by multiple nations that has targeted it as the stronghold of the ISIS.

The city of Raqqa reportedly lies in ruins and amidst massive shortage of medical personnel and drugs, the outbreak is likely to get worse. This further goes to highlight the impact that social, political and civil unrest has on health, and takes the discourse of infectious disease outbreaks and controls to domains beyond medical issues. Social, economic and political determinants are equally important in deciding the outcome of infectious diseases in today’s world.