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Hepatitis C and Tattoos

Those considering getting a tattoo should consider the health risks. If the artist does not properly clean and sterilize his or her equipment, you not only run the risk of getting a bacterial infection, you might also contract a virus. You can get infected if the tools that are used have someone else’s infected blood on them or the artist does not follow good health practices, such as washing hands and using disposable gloves.

Let’s face it, tattooing is not always carried out under the best sterile conditions. Many teenagers and young adults will even get a friend to give them a tattoo in their home. While in most cases, reputable tattoo artists will use “single-use” needles (as it is required to do so in most states), other equipment such as dye and dye tubs may be used on many different customers. Protect yourself by making sure that your tattooist uses safe infection control practices – new, single-use sterile needles sealed in an autoclave bag, disposable surgical gloves, dye tubs, etc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports “transmission of hepatitis C (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 prisons and other informal or unregulated settings. Further research is needed to determine if these types of settings and exposures are responsible for hepatitis C virus transmission.”  

Consider this. There are the same risks of getting an infectious disease from getting a tattoo as there are when you go to a health care provider such as when you go to the doctor to get a vaccination or go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning. The common factor is the potential for contaminating your blood with the blood of an infected individual. However, the risk is higher when getting a tattoo as it is more likely that infection control procedures are not in practice, especially when the artists are novices/hobbyists.

Take your well-being seriously and be responsible by researching which tattoo artist or parlor you want to trust with your health. Here are some things to look for when deciding on which tattoo parlor to choose based on their infection control practices:

  1. Ask the artist what procedures they follow for properly sterilizing equipment and for infection control. Also the sterilization equipment should be tested and serviced regularly.
  2. All needles and razors are disposed of in an easy to reach sharps container clearly marked as a biohazard.
  3. An autoclave should be used and new sterile needles must always be removed from an autoclave bag in your presence.
  4. Artists always wear new sterile gloves and will wash their hands before putting on a pair, as well as put a pair of gloves on prior to touching clients or equipment. In addition, they should wash their hands after removing their gloves.
  5. Gloves should be removed and thrown away whenever the artist leaves his or her work area.
  6. All items that can come in contact with blood and cannot be sterilized should be disposed of as a biohazard. This includes gloves, paper towels, leftover ink caps, cotton swabs, leftover ointment and the plastic covers used to protect the tattoo machine, cord, soap bottles, etc.
  7. Ink, water or other products that are not used should be thrown out after use and not returned to the container they came out of.
  8. If an artist needs to apply something to the skin, it should be done with a tissue or so that there is no contamination of the product between clients.
  9. The work areas and surfaces should be cleaned frequently and between every client, following the instructions on a disinfecting cleaner.

http://tattoo.about.com/cs/beginners/a/blchecklist.htm Retrieved October 15, 2009
http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/cfaq.htm#cFAQ10 Retrieved October 15, 2009
http://www.cdc.gov/Features/BodyArt/ Retrieved October 15, 2009
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/body_art/contamination.html Retrieved October 15, 2009


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