Letter to the Editor

BY DI READER | JULY 17, 2009 7:15 AM

Home tattoos not a safe route

As a tattooist who has been working professionally in state-licensed tattoo parlor in Iowa for 14 years, I found Kristin Peters’ article “Tattoo you as art” (DI, July 15) both irresponsible and insulting.

Professional tattooists have been fighting long and hard to legitimize the craft and distance themselves from the jailhouse scratch and poke clique. This clandestine needle and thread method is unsafe and unsanitary. Whether you reuse the needle and thread is irrelevant. Reusing the same ink caps is just as risky in the transmission of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis. If you don’t have an autoclave, and the wherewithall to know how to use and maintain it, and proper training in cross contamination and sterile techniques, you have no business giving yourself or anyone else a tattoo.

And transmission of disease isn’t the only concern. The plating on sewing needles and safety pins can easily flake off and lodge in the skin, and this is not medical-grade, surgical stainless steel I’m talking about. It’s usually some cheap nickel plating that can cause serious reactions and infection. Also, proper aftercare protocols are very important in caring for a new tattoo. If ignored, or cared for improperly, serious infections could occur.

Professional tattooists are called professional for a reason. It’s not just a title we pull out of our butts just to sound important. Tattooist are regulated by the state Board of Health, which inspects the shops once a year, checking for cleanliness, records of release forms, and record of biological monitoring of autoclaves. Also, the tattooists themselves are questioned on their procedure, sterile technique, and aftercare. Professional tattooists take a lot of time and care and work closely with the Board of Health to make sure what we do is safe, and it isn’t just for the customer’s benefit. Even though we only use our needles, inks, and ink caps once and autoclave everything, the tattooist is putting her- or himself at risk being exposed to whatever may be in the customer’s blood. This is why sterile procedure and a professional relationship with the state Board of Health are so important.

As far as the “aesthetics” of home tattoos — or as we professional tattooists call them, “scratch-er” tattoos — are concerned, I personally have made a small fortune covering up these DIY messes applied by drunk idiots at some basement scratch party. More people regret this type of tattooing than not. Hacks and dilettantes give professionals a bad name, sullying the craft we take great pride and care in by turning it into something dangerous, stupid, and amateur. And to add insult to injury, they extol its virtues in a local paper.

Hell, why not run an article about the joys and rewards of living with hepatitis?

Scott “Scotty Potty” Warren
Nemesis Studios, Iowa City

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