When it comes to tattoos, many states have strict regulations to promote safety. Arizona is one state with very few restrictions when it comes to tattooing.
While Arizona requires artists to use sterilized tools and bans anyone under 18 from getting a tattoo without being accompanied by a parent or guardian, the state does not regulate the industry as a whole. Because of this lack of regulation, tattoo parlors aren’t required to be inspected regularly and tattoo artists don’t have to go through regulated training.
Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, introduced a bill that, if passed, would require body art establishments to get a health certificate. House Bill 2442 would require body art establishments to adhere to sanitation guidelines, would allow health departments to inspect these establishments, and would require regular bloodborne pathogen training for all employees.
“To find out that there are no regulations on the tattoo and body-art industry is just shocking,” Butler said. “As a consumer, you expect (tattoo shops) to have regular inspections. I mean, there are serious bloodborne illnesses that you can get from (the shops).”
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Coconino County is the only county in the entire state of Arizona with tattoo industry regulations. These regulations require body art operators to register their business and complete annual bloodborne pathogen training.
Tattoos are one of the most popular forms of body art. While there are over three million Instagram posts featuring the hashtag #brows, there are more than 83 million posts with the hashtag #tattoo.
Because of the risks associated with tattooing, many states have strict regulations throughout the industry.
Some medical experts say the lack of regulations increases in the risk of bloodborne pathogens spreading. This is especially true as the popularity of tattoos continues to spread. In fact, about 14% of all Americans have at least one tattoo.
Dr. Dan Quan, an emergency room physician and toxicologist with the Maricopa Integrated Health System, explained, “During the tattoo process, you’re puncturing the skin, which has bacteria crawling on it. And those bacteria can get into the skin and cause an infection. I think there should be some regulation.”
But due to Arizona’s reputation for trying to minimize regulations and restrictions, similar body art regulation bills have failed in the past. In recent years, Dr. Eric Meyer, former Arizona House representative, introduced two bills that would have regulated body art establishments. However, both bills failed.
Fortunately, many of the tattoo artists throughout the state self-regulate. With the risk of infections or spreading of disease, artists put their reputation at risk when using unsterilized equipment. However, many artists would like official statewide regulations.
Both Meyer and Butler say they will continue fighting for regulations within the tattoo industry.