D.C.

D.C. tattoo industry closer to being regulated

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The D.C. Council has given initial approval to a bill requiring basic health and safety standard for tattoo artist and body piercers.

Surprisingly,  the District is one of the only jurisdictions in the country with no existing industry regulations.

In a town where barbers, funeral directors and even tour guides must get licensed, just about anyone could run a tattoo or body piercing business without any regulations.

Colby Buzzell, who is tattooed, was shocked by the news.

"I mean there's a tattoo shop on every corner, and some of them you just walk by and it's like I would never get anything done there. That's kind of scary. I didn't know it was unregulated," Buzzell says.

Concerned about infectious diseases, councilwoman Yvette Alexander has introduced legislation mandating that workers get a license and take courses in bloodborne pathogens and first aid.

Alexander also wants health officials to establish minimum sterilization standards.

"Actually, the industry reached out to me saying, 'We need some regulation.'" Alexander explains.

But not everyone in the industry is onboard.

"We all use single use needles, and we throw everything away after each and every customer," Tattoo parlor Owner Mark Strassburg says. "There's people tattooing out of their garages, their kitchens and the existing tattoo shops in D.C. are not the problem."

After so many years without regulations in D.C., many tattoo artist in Adams Morgan say they don't understand the urgency in passing the legislation. In fact, some even question if this is more about revenue and fees than it is about health and public safety. 

"You know, if it's just a way to collect another fee then let's not do that. You know? Or just say that's what it is. Don't say it's something it's not," Tattoo parlor Owner Matt Knopp adds.

Tattoo artists are also concerned that the bill gives oversight to the D.C. Board of Barbers and Cosmetology when beauty salons and tattoo parlors have little in common.

Knopp continues, "We need to actually have people that know the industry and that are properly representative."

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