Critics call at-home tattoo trend risky

Statistics show 1 in 5 adults has a tattoo


MAITLAND, Fla.Statistics show one in five adults has a tattoo.  Robin Marquis loves her tattoos, from head to toe. She inked some herself and also had friends do some for her at home.   

"I think having the experience of having a tattoo at home is really awesome," she said.

The National Tattoo Association says those "at-home experiences" are a growing trend, a trend that gives them growing concerns. 

"It's a trade that needs to be taught and if you're not taught properly you're not gonna be doing proper work," said Sailor Bill Johnson with the National Tattoo Association, who owns a tattoo shop in Maitland, Florida.

The association says it's becoming easier to get a tattoo outside a licensed and inspected shop. Online you can easily  find directions on how to tattoo with a sewing needle or how to make your own tattoo gun.  And, you can get complete do-it-yourself kits on the web containing needles, ink and possibly even an electronic tattoo machine.  You can get it with no experience necessary.

"Are they clean? Are they keeping things sterile?  Are they using the proper procedures? Are they using the proper ink?" Johnson questioned.

The Food and Drug Administration takes complaints about tattoo ink related infections, but doesn't track how many infections are related specifically to do-it-yourself tattoos.  

However, a report of an infection from contaminated ink sparked a recent recall of some online kits. Using unsterilized equipment can be dangerous, especially to people with compromised immune systems. 

"If the infection spreads systemically into the bloodstream it could become a life threatening situation. It could also threaten the limb if the infection is very deep-seated in the soft tissue," explained Infectious Disease Specialist Dr4. Amesh Adlja.

He warns  that with any tattoo you need to know there are risks involved. 

 "You're breaching your skin, you're breaching a part of your immune system to apply this tattoo, so everything needs to be sterile," Adalja said.

Nicole West creates and sells home tattoo kits. She got a certification for infection control and says she tries to help "do-it-yourselfers" do it as safely as possible. She equipped her kits with  medical gloves, sterile needles and ink, alcohol wipes and information on how to prevent diseases.

"I decided to start making these kits because I know people who stick and poke using random, you know, objects around the house-- not necessarily the best thing for creating a tattoo," West said.

The National Tattoo Association says tattooing is not just about having sterile equipment but proper training, which it says comes with experience and oversight.   For more information about home tattoos and do it yourself tattoos, go to http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048919.htm