By Rick Kelsey (Story originally appears at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/.)
A group of the UK’s leading tattoo artists has called for tougher regulations across the industry. They want people to be more aware of the dangers of backstreet parlours and home inking kits bought online…
The group, Tattoo Regulations 2013, is led by celebrity tattooist Kevin Paul, who has worked on Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles.
The Department of Health says it believes that new laws are not the answer to the problem. As tattoos become mainstream, artists say infections and blood-borne diseases like hepatitis are more common.
The Tattoo Education and Public Awareness Group (TEPA), another group that represents the tattoo industry, also wants the industry to be better regulated but wants the focus to be on educating people before they get inked.
As increasing amounts of people have work done, evidence has emerged of operators setting up with sub-standard equipment.
“They told me that if I had left it any longer the infection could have gone to my bone and they would have had to look at amputation,” Gemma Hardy.
Leading tattooists like Kevin Paul and Beki Sanderson want people to do more research before having work done.
They believe you need to know that your tattooist is experienced with your type of design, whether that be with colours, portraits or tricky areas of the body.
The Local Government Association thinks there are more than 1,500 licensed tattoo parlours in the UK with almost three in 10 people aged between 25 and 34 having at least one piece of body art.
It is the ease of calling yourself a tattooist that has some concerned.
Kevin Paul said: “All you need to set up a shop is wipeable surfaces, wipeable floors and a steriliser to clean your equipment. That’s all the council will ask you to do.”
Gemma Hardy, who’s 24, wanted a foot tattoo of a flower bulb but says she ended up with a strawberry looking splodge and blood poisoning.
“They told me that if I had left it any longer the infection could have gone to my bone and they would have had to look at amputation,” she said.
She now says she hides her foot whenever she can. “I was embarrassed,” she admitted. “I was ashamed that it happened that way.”
To get a tattoo you need to be 18 but there are few other regulations surrounding the industry apart from health and safety laws and a registered certificate that artists get off the council.
The artists Newsbeat spoke to told us nobody checked to see if they could draw.
Beki Sanderson from TEPA wants to make sure new regulation isn’t rushed.
“The aim of TEPA is to educate the public and improve tattoo regulations,” she said. “Unless the actual law is changed so you can’t supply tattoo equipment to unlicensed people you’re always going to have this problem.”
The Department of Health argues that laws are already in place to protect the public.
A spokesperson said: “Tattoo artists, industry and training bodies and enforcement authorities need to work together to agree standards of good practice.”