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St Helens public health bosses issue alert about infected tattoos
WATCHDOGS are urging two people to come forward after they visited the NHS walk-in centre suffering from infected tattoos that had been linked at the same premises.
The patients – who had new tattoos applied within a day or two of each other – were advised by a nurse to get in touch with St Helens Council.
Medics were concerned the body designs had been applied by unregistered tattooists, and hoped the local authority could examine the case.
However, so far both have failed to contact environmental health officers.
The message comes as the council steps up its fight against unregistered tattooists in St Helens by urging Star readers to come forward with information.
Tattoos have been increasingly fashionable in recent years, a trend driven by sports and music stars.
But when an artist is unregistered there are no guarantees that equipment used by is safe and clean.
Potentially this could put customers at risk of serious infections, including hepatitis B and C, septicaemia and the HIV virus.
Councillor Richard McCauley warned: “In most cases the hygiene standards at unregistered premises will not match those followed by studios legally registered with and monitored by the council.”
Last year a Think Before You Ink campaign run by the local authority prompted dozens of calls from people concerned about unregistered artists, known as ‘scratchers’.
Most tip-offs were anonymous, however, and many callers pointed to the same few individuals, who are working from home and using cheap tattooing kits.
However, the information was not substantial or specific enough for St Helens Council’s Environmental Health Officers to mount a prosecution.
Often the ‘scratchers’ advertise through web-based auction sites, making them difficult to pin down.
Worryingly, adds the council, there have been reports of unregistered and registered artists tattooing people under the age of 18, which is illegal.
In one instance a child who had received a tattoo was traced, but the family involved did not want to make a formal complaint.
Senior environmental health officer Helen Williams added: “We’ve received many calls over the past few months and been able to contact at least one of the unregistered artists to request they register with us as a tattooist.
“But in most cases we need more tangible information – specifically the names and addresses of those responsible – if we are to take action.”
Cllr McCauley believed the campaign was having an effect.
He added: “It’s prompted several unregistered tattooists to contact us to inquire how they set up a studio and caught the imagination of registered tattooists, who actively promote it themselves.
“But we need more information if we are to track down the irresponsible individuals who operate at the twilight end of the market and pose a real health risk to their customers.”
For more information and contact details go to sthelens. gov.uk/thinkbeforeyouink.