Getting inked? Here's what you need to know - FOX Carolina 21

Getting inked? Here's what you need to know

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FOX Carolina/November 16, 2016 FOX Carolina/November 16, 2016

There's a pretty good chance that you, or someone you know has a tattoo.  Ink art is growing in popularity.  In fact, the FDA said one in five Americans has at least one tattoo. 

And sometimes, there can be dangers associated with getting inked.

What you may not realize, is that the FDA does not regulate the tattoo industry, specifically, the ink used by artists.  But they will step in if there are problems with inks, and inform the public when that happens.           

The FDA said, with more people getting tattoos, there are more concerns about infections from contaminated tattoo inks, and reactions to the inks themselves.         

In South Carolina, DHEC regulates the tattoo industry.  They oversee things like licensing, zoning laws, and inspections of tattoo shops.

And while there have been issues in other parts of the country with bad ink, South Carolina has largely steered clear of problems.

According to DHEC, there's been one contamination outbreak in the state since 2011.  Four of the eight cases reported had the same bacterial organism.  And all those people had used the same artist and facility.

DHEC said the issue has been resolved, but it's a reminder, there are dangers out there when you ink, if you're not careful.

Tattoo artist Steve Cochran has been in the business of ink for more than a decade, and he's seen a solid flow of customers in the upstate.  And he told us, he's seeing more people who are educating themselves before getting inked. 

“I think people have become more aware of the health and safety factors. Tattooing is something where infection control and potential transmission of blood-borne pathogens is always present, so without the proper training, someone should in no way, shape, or form be tattooing and just practicing on their bodies because they bought a kit on eBay.”

At Main Street Tattoo on Woodruff Road, Manager Chris Glover says he is very clear with his customers about the safety measures his shop follows.  “When I do all my tattoos, I show them my expiration dates so no one has any question that I've used something expired.”

But not everyone follows the same high standards.  The FDA said they've issued seven ink recalls around the country since 2003, because of outbreaks from contamination.

Linda Katz is the Director of FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors.  "There can be infections as a result of the inks themselves becoming contaminated, either at the source, or that there can be contaminations at the site themselves when the inks are diluted."

It’s an issue the FDA says they are looking more deeply into, as research is being done to learn more about the safety of inks.

"We are not aware of exactly what's in the inks and pigments that people are injecting.  We don't know the long term consequences," said Katz.

Both artists we spoke with said they've done their research on the brands of ink they use, and they come from reputable manufacturers.

Cochran told us, “I do believe however that a professional tattoo artist who genuinely cares about their clientele, we're going to do the research we're going to make sure that there's no infectious bacteria or spores or anything like that.”

And Glover warned you need to do your own research, so you're making a good decision on the artist, and the shop.

“This is on you forever this is going to last longer than you.  You're gonna die and your body still going to be there with tattoos on it so I just say to people do your research, and research everything that your tattoo artist uses because there are some people that cut corners.”

To become a licensed tattoo artist, you have to do an apprenticeship at a licensed shop, which can take up to two years to complete.

In South Carolina you also need 1000 hours of supervised tattooing in the last three years.

You’re also required to keep up on annual courses in blood-borne pathogen standards, and tattoo/body piercing infection control, as well as first aid and CPR classes.

And one more interesting fact, South Carolina had a ban on tattooing that wasn't lifted until 2004, so it's still fairly new in the state.

For more information from the FDA on tattoos, click here.

For more information about tattoos in South Carolina, click here.

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