Body art industry lacks regulations

Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Government a step closer to legislation; artist advocates safe practices

Tattoo artist and Trouble Bound Tattoos owner Dave Munro. – Telegram file photo

The province has completed what it says is the last part of the process to introduce legislation pertaining to personal services, including the tattoo industry.

Officials with the Department of Health and Community Services recently held meetings with members of the local tattoo industry to discuss what they feel is needed when it comes to regulations in the business.

A number of local tattoo artists have long been calling on the government to set laws and guidelines when it comes to tattoos and piercings; an industry that, apart from annual business inspections carried out by municipalities, is self-regulated.

Trouble Bound Tattoos owner Dave Munro has been one of the most vocal when it comes to the need for such laws. He gave his views to the Health Department earlier this week, but also presented his recommendations to the government more than two years ago. Accountability and disclosure are not required in the tattoo and piercing industry in this province, and the government currently does nothing to ensure safe practices are followed, he said.

Munro reckons there may be close to 100 people doing tattoos and piercings from their homes in St. John’s, and said a tattoo gun can easily be bought on eBay. When it comes to businesses in the field, customers have no way of knowing which ones follow federal guidelines for safety standards.

“You would love to see something as clean and sterile as a dental office or your general doctor’s office — you expect a certain standard of procedural practice,” Munro said. “In certain workplaces you require people to know CPR. In certain workplaces you require people to know how to handle blood-borne pathogens. There needs to be assurance that people are following proper disposal techniques for bio-hazardous material, and that age restrictions are put in place (by) government (for) dealing with minors.”

Consequences of getting a tattoo or piercing in the wrong environment can range from streptococcal bacteria infections to hepatitis, Munro said. Many people are hepatitis carriers and don’t realize it, he added.

Munro would like to see the regulations on the industry be quite strict. Among his recommendations to the government for inclusion in potential legislation are that equipment and instruments used in tattooing or piercing be sterilized, and sterilization be  documented in a log; needles be properly disposed of in bio-hazard containers; third-party monitoring of the sterilization process, which he said could be done through spore testing and surprise visits from inspectors, the plastic containers holding ink never be reused; and consent forms and contact details be kept on file for every client.

Munro would like to see tattoo artists required to obtain a health permit before they can practice, proving they are at least 18, free of communicable diseases, have a minimum of six months’ experience, have been tested for tuberculosis and immunized against hepatitis A and B, and have obtained a certain score on a written examination, among other qualifications.

Newfoundland and Labrador could look to other provinces, such as Alberta, for ideas on tattooing and piercing guidelines, Munro said.

“A number of cities in Canada are contemplating licensing tattooists, but even then, you’re not necessarily licensing their capacity to do a tattoo. You’re licensing their health consciousness,” he said. “A level of buyer-beware will still be there.”

In March 2006, a 17-year-old

St. John’s girl died of toxic shock syndrome after having her nipple pierced a week earlier. Government officials discussed the idea of regulating the industry at that time.

Early last year, a mother in Conception Bay South went to the media after her 14-year-old son obtained lip piercings from a home studio in the community without her consent. Then-health minister Jerome Kennedy asked officials to review the issue at that point, and review what was being done in other areas.

Health Minister Susan Sullivan is out of the province and was unavailable for comment Friday. A statement was emailed to The Telegram from a spokesman for the department.

“Over the past several months, the provincial government has put a great deal of work into examining the issue of legislation pertaining to the personal services industry, including preliminary discussions with the cancer control advisory committee and monitoring other jurisdictions,” the statement said. “This work has been carried out with the intention of introducing legislation during this sitting of the House of Assembly that will address the regulation of personal services. The last piece of this process was to have discussions with key stakeholders in the industry. These discussions have now taken place.”

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Department of Health and Community, Health Department, EBay

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Canada

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Recent comments

  • David
    June 03, 2012 - 14:15

    The "body art industry" sure doesn't lack one thing..... pretentious gall.

    • ashley
      June 07, 2012 - 08:22

      I see no "pretentious gall" In trying to better the industry and the safety of those who choose to partake

    • ashley
      June 07, 2012 - 08:24

      I see no "pretentious gall" In trying to better the industry and the safety of those who choose to partake

  • Dave
    June 03, 2012 - 11:30

    These people cannot talk about regulation. they have no training to deal with diseases or anythin else. There has to be regulation I agree to check on equipment and sterility but none have formal training from a regulated school, all start off as scratchers. if they want to do it properly they should create a school and do it properly. I expect some backlash here as these guys have no training in diseases, there is alot more to it than any of these artists understand. They are peircing skin, have no formal trainin on the what ifs and rely on us medics to bail them out when it goes wrong.

  • Christina
    June 03, 2012 - 10:30

    Here in the UK we have very little in the way of regulation also. I have been campaigning since the death of my son Dan in 2002 for stricter government control over this industry. Dan aged 17 had a piercing without my knowledge or consent by an individual who had no medical background or training. She stuck a needle into my son after shadowing for a few weeks in the salon where she worked. I find this so routine for body piercers, most people that work with needles are strictly monitored but not this industry. I now take a teaching workshop into secondary schools to educate teenagers about these risks, so that they can make better informed choices.We are not against self expression it's a rite of passage for many young people. We need better regulation so that these young people can expect a much better and safer procedure, after all knowledge is power and if you are ill informed you cannot make an informed decision. Dan had a right to know the competence, history and qualification of this individual, but for some reason his health and well being were overlooked and he paid the ultimate price for having a 'simple' piercing.

  • baygurl
    June 02, 2012 - 18:38

    Not a fan of tattoos & body piercings, but at least regulations would ensure that butchers and scratch artists are not making a mint, of poor misguided individuals who insist on using their bodies as an etch-a-sketch.

  • Ashley Hiscock
    June 02, 2012 - 15:19

    Actually it can be safe. Just as safe as getting any kind of dental work, or surgery, or even just a needle from a doctor. it all should and NEEDS to be regulated however. Your body can heal itself if taken care of, which in my opinion is the professional who is doing the body modifications job to advise you of. I myself have several piercings and tattoos, all to have come from Daves shop and never a hitch with any of them. I was always advised of the proper procedures in order to take care of them and ALWAYS saw a clean and sterile environment in his shop. I have also been to alot of homes where tattoos and piercings have been done. none of them living up to a standard in which I would ever allow them to touch my body with a needle. I completely agree with the need for such regulations as well as the need for a quality in work as these people do deal with the human body and in most cases blood. if doctors have such health codes, then why shouldn't the body modification industry? Lastly I have to commend Dave in doing what he is doing, it is long overdue that the standards of body modification be raised to meet the ages, Modification is not going away any time soon, (in fact the industry is growing more and more each year in popularity) and so should the safety of everyone involved. Go Dave!

  • Ashley Hiscock
    June 02, 2012 - 15:17

    Actually it can be safe. Just as safe as getting any kind of dental work, or surgery, or even just a needle from a doctor. it all should and NEEDS to be regulated however. Your body can heal itself if taken care of, which in my opinion is the professional who is doing the body modifications job to advise you of. I myself have several piercings and tattoos, all to have come from Daves shop and never a hitch with any of them. I was always advised of the proper procedures in order to take care of them and ALWAYS saw a clean and sterile environment in his shop. I have also been to alot of homes where tattoos and piercings have been done. none of them living up to a standard in which I would ever allow them to touch my body with a needle. I completely agree with the need for such regulations as well as the need for a quality in work as these people do deal with the human body and in most cases blood. if doctors have such health codes, then why shouldn't the body modification industry? Lastly I have to commend Dave in doing what he is doing, it is long overdue that the standards of body modification be raised to meet the ages, Modification is not going away any time soon, (in fact the industry is growing more and more each year in popularity) and so should the safety of everyone involved. Go Dave!

  • Insanse body modification
    June 02, 2012 - 09:23

    Doing anything unnatural to the body is NEVER SAFE.