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Infection: Body art poses risk

Tattoos and piercings pose an infection risk, a report by the Royal Society for Public Health has found

Tattoos and piercings pose an infection risk, a report by the Royal Society for Public Health has found.

Almost one in five (18%) people who have had a tattoo, cosmetic piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis in the last five years experienced negative effects, with the most common side effects including burning or swelling. Between 2004-2014 there was a 173% increase in the number of tattoo parlours in the UK, and now one in five of us have a tattoo.

‘The growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and cosmetic procedures is all part and parcel of people choosing to express themselves and their individual identity,’ said Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.

‘However, the legislation and regulation of providers of these services, which ultimately protects the public, is markedly different across the UK and in some areas is not fit for purpose. This matters because one in five people are still at very real risk of sepsis and other complications.’

Currently there is no standard legal requirement across the UK in infection control for anyone offering special procedures, such as tattoos or piercings. This means that currently anyone can set up shop without appropriate training and could ultimately put people at risk of infection. In UK legislation, the term ‘special procedures’ refers to tattoos, cosmetic piercings, acupuncture and electrolysis. There is also no specific legislation covering other equally invasive treatments, such as dermal fillers.

‘With the surge in demand for tattoos, piercings and a growing variety of cosmetic procedures, such as fillers, we hope this report sparks a wider discussion about the need to provide safeguards and reassure those who seek to undertake body modification in all forms in the UK today,’ added Ms Cramer.

‘We would call on the rest of the UK to follow the example set by Wales to ensure infection control and other health risks are minimised, by introducing a mandatory licensing scheme which will require practitioners in place to ensure that the risk of complications is reduced.’