I was reading a post tonight concerning someone asking about matching tattoos. One of the comments was something to the effect of Dont do it. The risk of Hep C is to risky to chance it. This topic gets me fired up more than political discussions. The reason being is that people that make comments like this are going by what they heard instead of researching and speaking with something to back them up.
Back in the 50's 60's 70's and 80's and earlier, tattoo artists werent regulated by the states they provided services in. Today its a whole new world in most states. In order to be a tattoo artist,you have to first find someone willing to train you that is licensed in the state you are learning in. This isnt very easy but should you get lucky enough to find someone willing to take you on, you have to go to the local health dept and apply for an apprentices license also taking a short test (in some states). You have to pay for this license which allows you to tattoo while under the supervision and guidence of the tattoo artist named on the application. You spend a year in the shop learning the ropes, how to set up machines, how to repair the machines, cleaning the shop, learning how to use the autoclave and many many other things.
The health dept. comes to the shop you work in inspecting it. Looking for any sign the shop isnt a sterile environment to recieve work in. The look at spore tests. These are tests done on the shops autoclave to insure that the machine is doing its job. The autoclave is what is used to sterilize needles and tubes before use on customers. Most shops that stay in business use a needle only once before snipping the tips and disposing of them in a biohazard container.
This is via the CDC: Concerning Hep C and Tattoos
A few major research studies have not shown hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Body art is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in prisons and other informal or unregulated settings. Further research is needed to determine if these types of settings and exposures are responsible for hepatitis C virus transmission.
also: The CDCs position on Hep C and Tattoos states this:
Although some studies have found an association between tattooing and HCV infection in very selected populations, it is not known if these results can be generalized to the whole population. Any percutaneous exposure has the potential for transferring infectious blood and potentially transmitting bloodborne pathogens (e.g., HBV, HCV, or HIV); however, no data exist in the United States indicating that persons with exposures to tattooing alone are at increased risk for HCV infection.
For example, during the past 20 years, less than 1% of persons with newly acquired hepatitis C reported to CDC's sentinel surveillance system gave a history of being tattooed. Further studies are needed to determine if these types of exposures, and the settings in which they occur, are risk factors for HCV infection in the United States. CDC is currently conducting a large study to evaluate tattooing as a potential risk.
However if you look at dentists and Hep C you find 2% report a link between dentists and Hep C. Ask yourself this. You go to the dentist but how often do you see them removing the tools of their trade from Sterile packaging? Try asking them to see their autoclave and results of their last spore test. I actually did this and the dentist reluctantly after me asking more than once allowed me to see their autoclave. I never did see the spore test results. I also have never been back to that dentist.
Try that same thing next time you go to a tattoo artist. They are happy to show you their autoclave and let you see them pulling needles and tubes out of sterile packaging. Word of mouth (as well as the finished product) are the best forms of advertisement for a tattoo artist. If someone says the artist refused to allow them to see the needles and tubes in a sterile package, word of that is going to get around and the artist isnt going to stay in business very long.
Think before you make a decision to get a tattoo. Go to the artists. verify they are liscenced through the state and local health dept. Ask to see their portfolios and their health inspection results. Ask if they use single use needles. Follow their aftercare instructions. Do your homework and you should be very pleased with the results of your tattoo as well as your health.