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My Town: Health Department seeing increase in illegal "scratchers" | Health

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My Town: Health Department seeing increase in illegal "scratchers"
My Town: Health Department seeing increase in illegal "scratchers"


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Kent County Health Department)-- Tattoos, piercings and other forms of body art continue to grow in popularity. There are many reputable artists operating businesses across the state. Unfortunately, there are some who try to circumvent the system, operating in illegal locations with little or no training. The Kent County Health Department urges everyone to think about potential consequences, and get the work done in a legal, licensed location.

The Kent County Health Department works to educate the public about body art regulations, and ensure the public is safe when receiving body art, through licensing and regular inspections. Before December 2010, body art facilities could operate with minimal oversight in Michigan. Public Act 375 changed that. Tattoos, branding, and body piercings performed on an individual must be done at a body art facility licensed by the State of Michigan. The health department is authorized to inspect and regulate these facilities

Tattoo parties or so-called “freelance home artists” (often referred to as “scratchers”) are operating illegally, and clients are exposed to a greater risk of disease or infection. Many legitimate artists work to get the word out regarding these illegal operators, often filing complaints with local police departments to shut them down. “The law protects consumers by ensuring that artists receive specific safety training before performing body art procedures,” says Adam London, Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “Anyone receiving body art should educate themselves about the risk of transmission of diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Severe bacterial infections are also common and can cause permanent scarring.” Violators face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a $2500 fine.

Recently, the FDA issued a recall of ink after unopened containers were found to have bacterial contamination. Licensed tattoo artists would receive this information because of their work with regulatory agencies; illegal artists may not know they are using contaminated product, putting people at risk for infection.

You can go online to find out if the body art facility is licensed, at www.michigan.gov/bodyart. When receiving services, make sure the shop uses disinfectants on the workspace, both before and after each client. Make sure your artist washes his or her hands thoroughly before starting to work. And make sure the needle being used is brand new, right out of the package. When your work is complete, the artist should provide you with aftercare instructions, such as how to clean the art. Be sure to follow these instructions to avoid infection, for as long as instructed (from 2 weeks to 1 year, based on the procedure and location.)

“Be an informed consumer,” London says. “If you are thinking about body art, ask all of the right questions and know how to protect yourself from infection or disease. Make sure your art is not something you will regret.”