Tattoos and Human Identification: Investigation into the Use of X-Ray and Infrared Radiation in the Visualization of Tattoos

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Abstract

Any person with a tattoo known to their family or friends could potentially be identified from the presence of such personal identifying markers. Problems in identification utilizing tattoos may arise when these markers are removed or defaced in some way. This paper uses infrared wavelengths at 760, 850, and 950 nm to improve the visualization of laser-removed or covered up tattoos and also to establish whether the ink pigments used can be observed on radiographs from any metal that may be present. The results obtained indicate that some older inks have a high enough metallic content to allow them to be viewed on a radiograph, while infrared light can demonstrate latent ink still present in the skin after laser removal and can also be utilized to distinguish an original tattoo through a secondary “cover-up” tattoo. Infrared photography and radiography have been shown to improve tattoo visualization in a forensic context.

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