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Tattoo hygiene hits the headlines

March 17, 2016

E4 tattoo cover-up show Tattoo Fixers has come under fire for reportedly poor hygiene conditions during filming, with body art fans and critics arguing over the matter across social media channels in recent weeks.

The controversy over the popular show has raised a whole host of questions about the hygiene and quality of tattoo practices throughout the country.

But what exactly are the hygiene risks when it comes to tattoos? And what can be done to prevent needle contamination and infection in a tattoo studio?

Tattooing health risks

Tattooing involves needles, and often results in blood being drawn through the skin, meaning the risk of contamination can be high if adequate hygiene standards are not followed.

Potentially life-threatening infections such as HIV and hepatitis C can easily be spread if unclean needles are used in tattooing, while less serious conditions including dermatitis can be passed on if equipment is not kept in a hygienic state. Poor hygiene also makes allergic reactions more likely.

Tattoo artists who do not practice adequate standards of hygiene are putting themselves at an increased risk of contracting a serious infection.

In light of these risks, it is illegal for tattoos to be carried out in unsafe or unhygienic premises, with official guidelines recommending that tattooists wash their hands and lower arms thoroughly even before putting gloves on. Not only is failing to wear gloves illegal, but it dramatically increases the risk of both the artist and the customer contracting a blood-borne disease.

Gloves should be replaced for a brand new pair every time they are removed to keep hygiene standards to an optimum level. Tattoo artists should also have separate designated sinks to their customers to further reduce the risk of contamination.

In the event of an accident or cross contamination of needles, a first aid kit should be on standby in every tattoo studio or other premises where the art is being carried out, but it is advisable for individuals to seek professional medical treatment as well to put their minds at rest.

Preventing needle contamination in tattoo studios

Aside from wearing gloves when tattooing, how else can tattooists prevent needle contamination?

For a start, the practice should always be carried out by a licensed individual. Failure to ensure this requirement is against the law and could also increase the risk of cross contamination of needles, due to tattooists operating outside of official guidelines.

Needles should be protected by adequate coverings when not in use and should not be handled by anyone other than the licensed tattoo artist.

What's more, it is vital that needles are disposed of in a safe way to prevent anyone being pricked and infection spreading after the tattooing is over.

Licensed tattoo studios should have a designated sharps bin on site where all needles should be thrown away, with whoever is discarding them wearing gloves to do so at all times.

Studio managers are responsible for ensuring that this rubbish is collected by a firm that will dispose of it properly, along with pharmaceutical waste and other sharps.

This is the best way to prevent a needle injury and to keep infections at bay for customer, tattoo artists and refuse collectors alike.

Tattoo Fixers is yet to speak out against the backlash facing the programme, but its presenters are always seen wearing gloves when tattooing and wiping down their machines, demonstrating that adequate hygiene standards are followed at the pop-up studio.

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