Body piercers must use disposable needles Tattoos also covered in state regulations

December 08, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Prompted by complaints from parents and concern about the possibility of infection, the state health department has adopted regulations requiring tattoo artists and body piercers to use disposable gloves and needles and to get parental consent before working on minors.

The regulations, which take effect immediately, also require people performing "skin penetrating body adornment procedures" to clean the skin before and after the work, use face and eye protection if splashing of fluids is likely and provide written care instructions.

The regulations were approved last week by the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee of the General Assembly.

They exclude ear piercing using a disinfected ear-piercing gun or single-use sterile studs, the health department said.

"As tattoos and body jewelry become more popular fashion accessories, it is our job to ensure that these cosmetic procedures are conducted as safely as possible," Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Martin P. Wasserman said in a written statement.

"The skin is our body's first line of defense in preventing disease. Anytime the skin is broken, infection-control procedures need to be in place," he added.

In tattooing or body piercing, a person's skin or mucous membrane is entered to insert pigment, jewelry or other body decoration, according to the health department.

Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, deputy secretary for public health services, said yesterday that the department was concerned about the possible transmission of AIDS and hepatitis viruses from tattooing and body piercing.

But he stressed that it was not receiving increased reports of problems.

"We do not have an epidemic of infection which prompted this," he said. "This was a preventive measure based on concerns we were hearing."

Those concerns include complaints from parents and legislators about children having their bodies pierced or tattooed, he said.

"This is a bigger issue than just the kids," he said.

The regulations follow by a week approval by the Baltimore County Council of a law requiring parental permission for anyone under 18 to get a tattoo.

The Baltimore County measure, sponsored by 5th District Democrat Vincent J. Gardina, carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail for people convicted of illegally body piercing or tattooing a minor.

The state regulations carry no penalties, but they could be added, said health department spokeswoman Barbara Smith.

"We really hope people will comply," she said. "If it turns out people are not complying, then we will update the regulations."

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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