The Department of Health does not regulate tattooing practices and have no plans to
implement a regulatory body. With there being no regulation on the industry, tattoo artists do not receive any official training in hygienic practices.
Nick Walsh, a tattoo artist and cover-up specialist with Tombstone Ink said he learned his
hygienic procedures and tattoo aftercare from working in the industry for so long.
“It’s common sense you pick up from working in the industry. When handling someone’s
blood make sure everything is covered in plastic. Tattoo artists should think of their
reputation,” he said.
The tattoo industry has become a lucrative trade in Ireland over the last decade, yet not all
artists are practicing with safety at the forefront of their ethos. But, while the industry continues to grow, little is being done to make people aware of the potential dangers it can have on your health. The dangerous aspect being ink, which enters the skin, mixing metallic salts and organic dyes underneath the dermis layer.
The issue with this is that it can cause localised skin infections and inflammation. Although
given the nature of the procedure, there are also dangers of contracting HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Mr. Walsh said: “Cheap ink will fall apart and lose its colour, while good ink lasts longer and has fewer chances of infection.”
In one of the most recent tattooing phenomenon, doctors’ thought a woman in Australia
had lymphoma after 15-year- old ink eventually reacted to her immune system.
The ink was found stuck in her lymph nodes, which had enlarged. Once her white blood cells had tried to remove the ink from her skin, they could not digest it and clustered around it. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology showed results after testing 58 bottles of tattoo ink they had bought from the internet. It said; “six of 58 unopened stock bottles (10 percent) were contaminated with bacteria and one of six samples (17 percent) of previously used stock bottles was contaminated.”
Even with such concerning findings, the Health Products Regulatory Body said it does not
have any regulations on permanent tattoo ink. They do, however, cover children’s
They are currently working on a document that they hope will serve as a guideline to tattoo
artists, which they hope to publish by the end of the year. In a response, a spokesperson
“This document sets out best practice in infection control for the tattooing and body
piercing industry and is aimed at achieving the highest standards of infection control and
prevention in this sector. The purpose of the document is to provide guidance to the industry in the absence of sector-specific regulation.”
According to Mr. Walsh, a consent form is the only form of defence that artists who are
registered business owners have. “The customer must know the dangers involved when it
comes to tattooing, blood, hygiene, and infection.”
“The Department of Health does not have any guidelines on this and I had to put it together myself using the internet and my own words,” he said. According to David Moriarty from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, there is no regulatory body in the EU Union.
“Furthermore, there is no specific legislation governing Tattooing and Body Piercing in
Ireland. Also, there are no harmonised legislation or standards for tattoo inks or for
tattooing in general in the Europe Union,” Mr. Moriarty said.
Mr. Walsh believes there should be someone to go to for complaints against poor practices
in the industry as he says anyone can buy a tattoo gun and call themselves a tattoo artist.
In the Lancet journal, it said 36 percent of people younger than 40 years have at least one
tattoo, while many of those having been first tattooed between the ages of 16 and 20 years. With so many people taking to the artist’s chair Mr. Walsh comments; “There should be someone to go to complain about poor quality tattoos.”