MRI / Tattoo Explosion

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Killer Quicksand"
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: You'd think the worst part about getting a tattoo — aside from potential regret over permanently sporting an ex's name on your body — would be the painful inking process. But MythBusters Tory Belleci, Scottie Chapman and Kari Byron spoke to hospital workers who had heard of tattoos exploding in MRI machines.

Supposedly, the powerful magnets inside the medical devices can react with metallic fragments in tattoo ink and rip them out of a patient's skin. To fact-check this hospital horror story, the team isolated pigment compounds in tattoo ink, including iron oxide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and scanned each individually in an MRI. Since the iron oxide reacted to the magnetic field, the team whipped up some pigment with a heaping helping of the metal and tattooed a pork belly. As an experimental control, they tattooed another pork belly with standard ink.

But neither pork belly blew up in the MRI machine, busting the myth and calming terrified tattooed patients everywhere.

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