ILLEGAL back street tattooists are inking children and risking their lives.
As industry leaders warn of the risks of home tattoo and piercing kits which can be bought on the internet, one Gloucester tattoo parlour owner said parents are asking them to remove illegally inked tattoos – while other mums and dads let their children have them.
In Gloucestershire there have been at least two prosecutions of unlicensed tattooists who left their mark on children in the past six years.
But Lisa Richmond, of Gods of Ink in Market Parade, Gloucester, indicated that the problem is more widespread.
“Tattooing from home is very dangerous,” she said.
“Unlicensed home tattooists tattoo the underaged and we know of quite a few children who have had them because we have had parents coming in asking if we can remove them.
“We have to tell them that we cannot.
“Some parents let their children get themselves tattooed, which is also illegal.”
Gods of Ink only tattoos those 18 and over, is insured and licensed and the equipment used to ink the skin is one-use only, she said.
While businesses like Gods of Ink are regulated, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is calling on the Government to address what it sees as a major public health risk posed by the dramatic increase in tattooing and body piercing.
Tattooists in England and Wales need a tattoo, piercing and electrolysis licence from their local council which will check on staff hygiene and the safety and cleanliness of premises, furniture and equipment.
The CIEH has warned that the inability of local authorities to insist that tattooists and piercers undergo accredited training is putting the public at risk.
Concerns centre on the ease with which skin infection and blood-borne diseases can be spread through poor practice. In particular diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and HIV can all be transmitted through unhygienic practices and an unclean working environment. CIEH principal policy officer Ian Gray said: “We have been telling successive governments of the need for proper training and qualifications in this area for some 20 years. Putting things right now will require nothing less than a complete overhaul of the existing controls.”
Local authorities are currently using existing licensing and registration powers as well as adopted bylaws to stem the worst practices, but increasing numbers of tattooists and piercers are operating outside of these controls, the CIEH says. It is calling for local authority regulators to be given better powers to halt poor practice and to make it a requirement that practitioners are given adequate training, particularly in infection control.
Tattooing a person under 18 is illegal, contrary to sections one and two of the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969.
There have been at least two prosecutions under the act since 2008 in the county.
In 2008, a Cirencester man was fined £235 after admitting tattooing two Stroud girls aged 13 and 16. Last year, a Gloucester man admitted tattooing a 14-year-old girl with a £100 kit he bought on eBay, and was fined £40.
In December 2011, police investigated after a 14-year-old Dursley girl got a tattoo but it is not believed charges were pressed.
Gloucestershire Constabulary confirmed there had been charges under the 1969 Act in the past three years.
The CIEH will lobby MPs on the risks to health posed by the existing lack of controls next month.