Tattoo Popularity: Safety Risk?

At a dinner party this weekend, the conversation turned to the ever-increasing popularity of the tattoo.  It seems like many athletes and celebrities sport the ink. The question of safety also came up and I suggested that perhaps the salon of a tattoo artist might not be as clean and sterile as needed to prevent infection or exposure to blood borne diseases.  Just because a needle is presented as “sterile” it may not be. According OSHA,  transmission of Hepatitis (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Body art is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in some informal or unregulated settings. Getting a tattoo requires that your skin be pierced by a needle and injected with tiny amounts of ink.

Reusing dirty needles is an obvious safety violation, but it’s not good enough to just find out if the artist uses clean needles. When you’re dealing with injections and blood, you need to be aware of other potential hazards.

1) Does the artist wash his or her hands? Though tattoo artists should wear gloves , they also need to wash their hands before putting gloves on and after taking them off. They should only put on fresh pairs.

2)  Is the equipment sterilized? Sterilized is different from being clean. By wiping over something with a towel, the instrument will look clean, but it could still be infectious. Sterilization involves applying chemicals or heat, killing bacteria and viruses.

3) Are work surfaces clean? The work area needs to be cleaned and sterilized.  A clean tattoo needle can be exposed to germs from the table surface or other equipment.

Tattoo businesses are regulated like hair salons, not like medical facilities.  Even though the risk is not great in contracting an infection or  blood borne disease, safety is always worth considering, as problems can occur.  When styles change, unlike a bad haircut that can grow out, a tattoo is expensive and painful to get rid of.

 

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