Getting a tattoo and/or piercing in California is about to become a less risky endeavour.
A law enacted in January demanding public health departments statewide to comply with and enforce safety and sanitation standards will take effect on July 1.
"Instead of a few safe shops, there will be safer practice in all of Contra Costa [County,]" said Darrin Walters, owner and main artist of downtown Concord's .
The state law, titled the Safe Body Art Act, forces tattoo and piercing shops to register annually with the counties they're located in, to obtain a permit and abide by each county's sterilization, sanitation and safety standards.
“The fact is body artists are less regulated than the person who cuts you hair,” said Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood in a statement. "Through this law, health departments can help protect the public’s health ...”
Though Contra Costa body art shops have been required to register with the county since the mid '70s, "... our shop was never really inspected," said Nate Montessi, of Concord's . "All that's been required was to register and you'd be left alone."
Before the Safe Body Act, each county enforced the law as it saw fit or could afford to, said Walters. Now, however, artists need to be trained in blood-borne pathogens, sanitation, CPR and even get vaccinated for hepatitis B — all after registering with the county.
New law, new oversight
"I totally believe in it," said Montessi. "There are people running unsafe shops out of their garages and shops that don't have overhead costs because they don't use the right equipment, clean ink or licenses and fees. This [law] hopefully takes care of all that."
Walters, whose shop has operated in Concord for 35 years, agrees. "The process [of compliance] teaches people safe practices, and also makes them raise their standards, and eventually, prices will have to match shops that have been doing everything the right way all along."
But not everyone agrees.
Opponents responding to the legislation in an online forum claim that the Safe Body Art Act is "unnecessary, expensive, and indicative of how California erects barriers to every form of entrepreneurship."
"The truth is this [law] is a good thing," added Walters. "It creates an even playing field and makes sub-standard shops safe."
Tell us in the comments: Does this new law make you more comfortable with the idea of getting body piercings or tattoos? Were infections and disease ever a concern if you've been tatooed or pierced?