Saturday, May 8, 2004

Two teens ill after tattoos

Studio unlicensed, police say

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Two high school students are sick after visiting an unlicensed tattoo and body-piercing studio in Colerain Township, and public health officials are warning that more students may be at risk.

As least 150 students from four area high schools - Colerain, Northwest, LaSalle and Diamond Oaks - are thought to have visited the establishment this spring, police said.

Officials at the Hamilton County General Health District are advising the students to see a doctor about possible exposure to blood-borne illnesses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

The students all got tattoos or tongue piercings at an apartment in the 2900 block of Banning Road in Colerain Township, police said. Sterilization procedures were lax, authorities said.

Police arrested 30-year-old Tony D. Pippin, the man who lived there.

"This was a word-of-mouth operation that students knew about," said Colerain Police Officer Andrew Demeropolis.

Pippin faces two misdemeanor charges: running an unlicensed tattoo or body piercing business and doing procedures without parental consent.

Each count carries a maximum 30-day jail penalty.

Additional charges could be filed, Demeropolis said.

The two students with confirmed illnesses are awaiting blood tests, Demeropolis said.

He would not elaborate on their conditions.

Police became aware of the studio two months ago after someone made an anonymous call, Demeropolis said.

Police and county health officials told Pippin to apply for a state license and to prove that he had proper training.

Calls about the operation stopped, Demeropolis said.

But on Wednesday, police were called about a student becoming sick after visiting the studio, and on Friday a second student came forward with an illness.

Police, working with area high schools, surveyed students about how many kids may have received tattoos or tongue piercings from Pippin, Demeropolis said.

"Our best guess is 150, but it could be more. We just don't know at this point," Demeropolis said.

Anyone who had a procedure done at Pippin's apartment is asked to call police at (513) 385-7504.

Ohio law requires tattoo and body-piercing parlors to have operating permits and requires parents to accompany their children for tattoos or piercings.


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