Tattooing is an art form that uses the human body as the canvas where the artist inserts ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. If done improperly, it can cause serious health risks and even lead to death.
In Plattsburgh on Oct. 5, 16 year-old Ashley Seymour was arrested for allegedly tattooing a child under the age of 18. According to health.ny.gov, the website for the United States Department of Health, it is illegal by New York state law to tattoo any person under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent. For illegally tattooing, one will either be required to pay a fine or serve up to a year in jail.
The New York state regulations on tattooing require businesses or individuals to register with the New York State Public Health Department to be a legal tattoo artist. Deputy Kristen Brassard of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department said illegal tattooing includes people who tattoo out of their house using makeshift tools such as Bic pens and a needle to perform the tattoos.
Jamie Scott, a tattoo artist at Body Art Tattoo in Plattsburgh, said the reason illegal tattooing is happening so often is because New York state regulations are loosely enforced, allowing people to buy tattooing equipment from eBay and start tattooing people from home, which he said he believes to be dangerous.
Scott also said tattoo artists must be an apprentice for two years to learn proper tattooing and sterilization techniques before they are allowed to perform tattoos on their own in order to ensure customer safety. It is possible that illegal tattoo artists could have little to no training.
“A lot of people think it is just a drawing on somebody, but there is a lot more to it than that,” Scott said of tattoos. “It can make people sick and even kill people.”
The problem with people tattooing out of their houses, Scott said, is the lack of cleanliness. He said the houses are filled with bacteria, which can lead to sicknesses such as staph infections or even hepatitis, which can be passed from customer to customer by the artist using improper cleaning techniques for equipment. It can also cause AIDS or the MRSA virus.
Both Brassard and Scott agree that getting an illegal tattoo can be dangerous for the client because the untrained artists don’t always use proper techniques to ensure the customer’s safety. Furthermore, Brassard said tattoo artists must use certain cleaning equipment to keep customers safe. She said they have to clean their equipment with autoclaves or a sterilizer, follow regulations and making sure the customer is safe.
Scott said that it seems like a no-brainer to not go to an illegal tattoo artist.
“You wouldn’t trust someone that just opened a dental practice at their house or something like that, and it is very similar,” Scott said. “In New York state you have to go to school for two years to cut someone’s hair just because you could possibly cut them and we are doing it on purpose.”
Email Nick Topping at firstname.lastname@example.org.