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Tatoo industry a 'regulation waiting to happen'

"Animals are better protected than people from unsafe tattooing practices under state law.In other words, anyone with a business license and tattooing equipment can legally stick customers with needles, inserting ink under their skin.There are no comprehensive regulations at the state level protecting customers from unsafe tattooing practices, which shocked one of the South Kitsap-area’s state legislators.“That’s a regulation waiting to happen,” said Rep. Pat Lantz (D-26th District). “Of course, my personal opinion is not based on any research, but it seems to me that this is a business activity that needs to be regulated for the health and safety of the public. Whether it’s patchwork or comprehensive, that’s another question.”According to Bob Meinig, a legal consultant for the Washington Association of Cities, there are 19 regulations on tattoos on the state law books. Most of the tattoo rules have to do with properly tattooing exotic animals before releasing them into the wild. Only a few have anything to do with humans.“It’s illegal to allow juvenile offenders retained inside a juvenile detention facility to mutilate themselves or get tattoos,” he explained. “And juveniles aren’t allowed to work in tattoo parlors.”Health regulations on tattoo parlors could be left up to local governments, Meinig suggested. To name a few, King County and the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan areas enforce hygienic practices at tattoo parlors, he said.Yet the Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District doesn’t provide for regular health checks on local tattoo parlors, and most health officials have never heard of such regulations. Plus, Kitsap County and Port Orchard don’t have any health regulations or special licensing requirements, though City Council members recently adopted an ordinance that reflects state law prohibiting minors from getting tattooed.“About once a year, we do get calls from parents concerned about parlors using unsanitary needles or others who are concerned that their underage child got a tattoo, and they are wondering if there is someone who can monitor that,” said Ed North, spokesman for the health district.All is not completely overlooked, though. State Department of Health spokeswoman Yvette Lenz said that the state’s Department of Labor and Industries has regulations that can provide customers with some recourse.The rules say that anyone working with needles that puncture skin must abide by blood-born pathogen standards.“So if there is a concern that safe measures are not being followed to prevent disease, citizens can contact their local health officials to go check out a parlor,” Lenz explained. “If it can be proven these standards are not met, officials can close the shop down.”In 1993, the Legislature considered crafting comprehensive health standards for tattoo parlors. The lawmakers asked state health officials to study whether regulating the tattoo profession would be cost-effective while protecting the public.“There just wasn’t any evidence of harm or potential harm at that time,” Lenz said. “We talked to all the different counties and there were no registered complaints at that time. I suspect that’s because kids who were tattooing one another wouldn’t tell if they got infected or not. Who wants to tell on their friends?”Ultimately, the concept was distilled into the 1996 statute that prohibits minors from getting tattoos.In 1998, legislators discussed but didn’t pass a law that would regulate health practices at tattoo and piercing parlors.“Currently, members of the public have no way of knowing which body artists and facilities are fully qualified to perform these invasive procedures,” the proposed bill read.The shock value is there, but no state law."

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