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Black Tattoo Market Poses Health Risks

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Black Tattoo Market Poses Health Risks

Tattoo

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

There are worries that certain people provide tattoos in Iceland without the necessary permits from health authorities, making their services a potential health threat to customers, Vísir reports.

Because tattoo artists don’t have a legalized job title, anyone who wants to can purchase equipment and ink online and offer services on the black market. Cheap ink from China is popular in these circles. It has not been allergy-tested and contains, among other things, lead. The concern is that young people, especially, are tempted to obtain tattoos from unregistered services since they offer the tattoos at a lower price than registered tattoo parlors.

The registered shops are under the supervision of the Public Health Authority, which pays annual visits to check hygiene and equipment. There are nine such shops in Reykjavík. Rósa Magnúsdóttir, department manager for the Public Health Authority, tells Vísir that the Directorate is aware of the black market, but lacks the authority to intervene. She states it’s the provider’s responsibility to apply for a permit. She encourages people to notify the Directorate if they find out about such operations, or hear about children under the age of 18 who get tattoos without parental permission.

Tattoo artists receive instruction from the Directorate of Health, according to its project manager Ása Steinunn Atladóttir. “Tattoo artists are not professionally trained, but we do our best to protect public health by providing education.”

Serious infections, blood poisoning and infectious diseases, such as Hepatitis C, can result from the lack of hygiene, or from using low-quality ink. In Denmark, for example, 12 percent of those who receive a tattoo experience discomfort as a result. There are examples of people there who have lost a limb or been forced to undergo expensive surgery to remove parts of the skin because of infection in their tattoo.

Ása claims there is no way to track how many tattoo-related infections have come up in Iceland.

“The responsibility,” she says, “rests first and foremost with the customers. If you decide to get a tattoo, you ought to check whether the tattoo artist has a license to operate. Consumers must be critical and the responsibility can’t rest with the state alone.”

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