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Investigation into illegal tattooing and piercing launched by Ohio County Health Department

Updated: Thursday, April 17 2014, 06:47 PM EDT

By:Crissy Clutter and NEWS9


The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is investigating illegal tattooing.

They are encouraging residents to only use permitted tattoo establishments when getting tattoos, body art or piercings.

Residents are also advised to avoid participating in local tattoo parties where unlicensed activity is common.

"Every year many individuals risk exposure to infection and blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis by receiving tattoos from unapproved artists in unsanitary setting such as private homes or apartments," said Howard Gamble, with the Wheeling- Ohio County Health Department.

Gamble says the biggest concern for public health officials are tattoos performed by unapproved tattoo artists called "scratchers" or in unregulated areas, as in the case of tattoo parties.

"Tattoo parties are events where an unlicensed person or business provides tattoos for their guests," said Gamble. "These events often occur inside homes or hotel rooms using inexperienced artists and they are very popular with minors looking for an inexpensive tattoo without their parent's consent."

Gamble says these types of unlicensed events are illegal in Ohio County and West Virginia, and often take place under unsanitary conditions.

"We have two tattoo studios in Wheeling and they are both inspected," said Gamble.

One of those places is Greg's Tattooing in Wheeling, W.Va.

Owner Greg Basil agrees with Gamble and says before anyone touches you ask to see their license.

"We have people that come in here constantly that have gone to a tattoo party or went to someone's house and it ends up costing them more for us to fix it," said Basil.

Tattoo establishments must be pre-approved and inspected at least twice a year. They are subject to strict requirements related to sanitation, record keeping, needle handling, age limitations and sterilization procedures.

Basil says every effort is made to ensure no person-to-person contamination.

"These people obviously don't have the money or skill to have a professional shop which means they have no idea what a sterile environment would be or what cross-contamination is," said Basil.
"There are a lot of risks in getting a home tattoo."

Anyone, who knows of an unlicensed tattoo or body piercing operation should contact the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department at (304) 234-3682.

Investigation into illegal tattooing and piercing launched by Ohio County Health Department

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