Columbia County tattoo and piercing parlors might soon undergo health and safety inspections similar to those for area restaurants.
This month, health officials hope to present to commissioners a new ordinance regulating tattoo and piercing businesses.
"We put together what we felt was best for Columbia County while putting in place state laws and making sure public health and the health of the artist was protected," said Environmental Health Inspector Andrea Frazier, of the county Health Department.
Limitations already in place, Frazier said, include no tattoos placed within an inch of someone's eyes, no one younger than 18 can get a tattoo, and no one younger than 18 can get a body piercing without parental consent.
The proposed ordinance would add that tattoo artists and body piercers obtain licenses from the Health Department and all artists must undergo training in CPR, first aid, universal blood-borne precautions and tattoo infection controls.
Former county commissioner and current Board of Health Chairman Tommy Mercer said that under the ordinance, tattoo and piercing businesses must submit to county health inspections twice each year to make sure instruments are sterilized, the premises are clean and artists are qualified.
In his 10 years of owning New Image Tattoo and Piercing in Martinez, James McLaughlin said he always has abided by state regulations. However, not once did anyone inspect his business.
"I don't particularly like the idea of anyone doing that, but I understand it," he said.
McLaughlin said he and other county tattoo artists even participated in drafting the ordinance when asked.
"They (county officials) were going to do it whether we wanted it or not, so we might as well be a part of the process, since we're the ones who are going to be affected by it the most," he said.
Mercer said the artists were very helpful once they learned that the county wasn't "trying to stick it to them."
"They came in with an attitude and I told them, 'Look folks, we're not here to lay anything on you. We're here to get your help,' " he said. "When they changed their attitude and starting helping us, there were some things they came up with that staff had not even thought about. It really is a collective document." The proposed ordinance is under review by the county attorney. Mercer said he hopes to have it before the commission at its next meeting, which is rescheduled for Sept. 14.
"It's important," Mercer said. "We need to have an ordinance in place to govern the way they tattoo and pierce. It can be a big-time health thing."
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