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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
Concern over body piercing health risk
Body piercing
Good hygiene is important
Tougher hygiene controls are needed to minimise the health risks of body piercing, say experts.

Public health experts will debate the issue at the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) on Tuesday.

Concern is rising that the growing popularity of body piercing brings with it an increased risk of transmission of blood-related diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

This is a very real problem

Ian Foulkes
One needle contaminated with hepatitis can infect thousands of people.

And in one part of England, a survey of GPs found almost 500 cases of complications following body piercing - including infections, bleeding and even nerve damage.

The CIEH will issue a set of recommendations for consumers designed to raise awareness about the possible health implications of skin-piercing treatments, ranging from body art and tattooing to electrolysis and acupuncture.

Currently there is no control over who can set up in business as a body piercer, and there are certainly no recognised standards of training for new practitioners.

By contrast, acupuncturists and electrolysists have well organised self-regulation, with national member organisations to oversee them.

Ian Foulkes, director of technical policy at the CIEH, said: "This is a very real problem."

The CIEH is calling for a national licensing scheme to achieve:

  • Approved training for new practitioners
  • A minimum age of consent for body piercing, with any piercing below the neck illegal for under 16 year olds
  • Satisfactory standards care before, during and after treatment

Keith Sakenbridge, founder of the British Body Piercing Association, criticised the lack of professional regulation in the UK.

Few problems

He said all body piercers should be registered with their local authority.

However, he told BBC News Online hygiene standards were generally high.

"There are a lot of extremely good body piercers out there, and the number of problems is tiny, given the thousands of people who undergo body piercing.

"There are more problems in hospitals than in body piercing clinics.

"But there are cowboys who don't know what they are doing."

Mr Sakenbridge said many problems associated with body piercing were not down to poor hygiene during the procedure, but to people failing to heed advice about follow-up care at home.

Some problems were also linked to the wrong type of jewellery being used, or placed in the wrong part of the body.

The association has a code of practice which stipulates that body piercing clinics should have washable walls and floors, two sinks, and an autoclave that is regularly checked for spores.

It also states that body piercers should wash their hands up to the elbows with anti-bacterial soap before each piercing. They should wear gloves and use only pre-packaged, single-use sterilised needles.

Nicola Carslaw reports
Experts warn of body-piercing health risk
See also:

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