By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Beginning today, it's harder for minors in Kentucky to get a tattoo or body piercing.
A new state law requires anyone under 18 to provide written notarized consent from a custodial parent or guardian. The law also requires local health departments for the first time to inspect and certify body-piercing studios.
Health departments in Kentucky already inspect tattoo parlors.
Mark Lind, part owner of Lucky 13 Tattoo Inc. in Covington, which also does body piercings, said he welcomes the new regulation.
"It's just good common sense," said Lind, 36. "I have kids, too, and I would want to know what my kids are doing and that proper sterilization is taking place in this business."
Owners of tattoo and body-piercing studios lobbied Kentucky lawmakers for the new rules as a way to help stop "fly-by-night" operations that may pose an added health risk to clients, said Rick Marksberry, a senior health environmentalist with the Northern Kentucky Health Department.
Ohio also requires tattoo and body-piercing parlors to have operating permits, but parental consent is handled differently. Ohio parents must actually accompany their children for tattoos or piercings. Indiana also requires a parent or legal guardian to be present and to give written consent for tattoos or piercings of any body part other than an earlobe.
Despite an unfavorable view from many health care providers, piercings of the lip, tongue, nose, eyebrow, navel and other body parts are increasingly popular.
The American Dental Association opposes oral piercings, calling it a public health hazard. Tongue piercing can lead to chipped teeth and a higher risk of infection, the group says.
Lax sterilization procedures can also lead to the transmission of hepatitis B or hepatitis C, as well as tuberculosis, syphilis or HIV.
Northern Kentucky has seven tattoo studios operating in the four-county health district (Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant). Under the new law, health department workers will have about 50 body-piercing sites to inspect.
That includes mall kiosks and jewelry departments that do ear piercings, said Anita Travis of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
Sam Mello, 20, has both earlobes pierced, as well as a piercing in his inner ear right above the lobes. He agrees with the new state law.
"I think it adds legitimacy to the business," said Mello, an Independence resident, student at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and an aspiring Web designer. He's holding back on a tongue piercing to consider the effect on his business image.
Health departments will inspect body-piercing studios twice a year. In addition, artists must be registered (fee is $20) and adhere to certain safety standards. Steam autoclaves will be tested to make sure they kill microorganisms.
The licensing fee for tattoo and body-piercing studios is $100.
Craig Moore, owner of Mother's Tattoo and Piercing in Erlanger and Covington, said he already uses sanitary procedures and requires that parents be present.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department occasionally gets calls from angry parents whose children got tattooed or pierced without their knowledge, Marksberry said.
People with questions can call the Northern Kentucky Health Department's Environmental Services line at (859) 341-4151.
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