Yesterday, The New England Journal of Medicine published the article "Tattoo Ink-Related Infections --Awareness, Diagnosis, Reporting, and Prevention." The article is based on investigations by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into an outbreak of tattoo-related skin infections cased by a family of bacteria called nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) that has been found in a recent outbreak of illnesses linked to contaminated tattoo inks. Coordinating their investigation with state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they discovered 22 confirmed cases of this infection primarily in New York as well as Washington, Iowa, and Colorado. It was found that the inks were contaminated before distribution and is believed to have occurred during the production process. The inks in which the bacteria were found have been recalled.
You can find all the details in the following reports:
* FDA: Tattoo Inks Pose Health Risks
* CDC: The Hidden Dangers of Getting Inked
* CDC: Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections -- Multiple States, 2011-2012
Here are some key aspects of the reports I think are worth highlighting:
First, the FDA is quick to note that no matter how diligently tattooists follow hygienic procedures, infections can still incur because the bacteria were found in non-opened bottles of ink and contamination is not often visible.
Fourteen of the confirmed NTM infections, specifically Mycobacterium chelonae, came from Upstate Tattoo Company in Rochester, NY. YNN.com reports that one of the tattooists bought ink at an Arizona tattoo convention and used it on clients and the co-owner of the shop. A second supply was then ordered and that batch had the bacteria. The ink allegedly is "Catfish Carl's Realistic Wash." While the CDC does not specifically name the inks recalled, on the FDA's Enforcement report for May 23rd, 2012, it does list a recall of three different Catfish Carl's Realistic Washes. Ynn.com says that Upstate Tattoo is considering legal action against the ink manufacturer.
[Update: Upstate Tattoo Co. has been given a clean bill of health by the Monroe County Health Department, which stated the shop followed all hygienic procedures.]
The infection was first identified by a dermatolgist who contacted The Monroe County Health Department when a patient's rash persisted for a long time after receiving a tattoo at Upstate. The rash was located in the specific area where the grey wash was used, not throughout the entire tattoo. This sparked the investigation.
The CDC blog says that, after it was notified about these NY cases, it issued a public health alert and found two clusters of tattoo-associated NTM skin infections in Washington state, one in Iowa, and one in Colorado. Contamination was found in inks produced by other manufacturers, which they do not identify, and could have come from unsanitary manufacturing processes or the use of contaminated ingredients. It adds the following key fact:
[...] All were related to inks likely contaminated by non-sterile water either during the manufacturing process or during dilution by the tattoo artist just prior to tattooing a client.
Non-sterile water includes filtered or distilled water as well as tap and regular bottled water.
NTM infections look like allergic reactions and can be hard to diagnose and treat. Different types of antibiotics are often prescribed. [Ointments won't treat the problem.] If not properly treated, the FDA says that Mycobacterium chelonae can cause lung disease, joint infection, eye problems and other organ infections.According to the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, Dr. Linda Katz, if you experience tattoo-related complications, notify your tattooist and the FDA through its MedWatch program.
Tattoo lovers in Everett, Washington and beyond will enjoy pouring over the portfolios of the artists at Sunken Ship Tattoo & Piercing for an array of tattoo styles, from smooth black & gray to color portraits and animated tattoo work. In this artist spotlight, we focus specifically on the work of Travis Broyles.
While our profiles usually feature long-time tattooers, Travis's tattoos have an eye-catching vibrancy developed in just five years in the industry. On his site, Travis offers some background on the evolution of his work:
I apprenticed under William Addams in Indianapolis, IN. William taught me the basics as to making a great tattoo. Bold lines, solid color, and consistency - however my career has developed since then. I have had the privilege to work with many great artists in this journey and have learned a lot of the tricks of the trade so to speak. I feel that these things are what make me a strong artist. I strive to provide clean, bold, yet solid line work, bright colors, dark blacks, and smooth grey wash. I find myself favoring American Traditional, Neo-traditional, Illustrative, Cartoony, Realism, as well as Black and Grey - but that does not mean I am limited to doing those tattoos, and only those tattoos.
To see more of Travis's tattoos, check his site and Facebook page. You can also find further news and tattoos on all the artists at Sunken Ship on their Facebook page as well.
Tattoo by the Jacqueline Spoerle of Corazon Tattoo in Switzerland.
As the deadline for my book on blackwork tattooing -- like that of the fabulous Jacqueline Spoerle above -- fast approaches, I'm grateful that the boys got my back and this blog to bring you the Tattoo 411, but some of the tattoo news was too important to let it pass.
The most important: 18 Douchebag Celebrities and their Douchebag Tattoos.
No, I jest.
The Washington legislature finally has passed a measure that requires body piercers and tattooers to be licensed by the state. Up until now, there have been no regulations, so any kitchen table scratcher can scar up anyone with a low tattoo IQ. One of the people behind the measure is bod mod artist Troy Amundson. I wrote about Troy's lobbying fight for BME in 2007 and his efforts to bring safe and fair regulation of the industry. And today I toast him for securing representation "as stakeholders in body art related issues" as he calls it. Cheers to Troy for getting shit done.
In more tattoo law news, the search is on for some garbage who tattooed a gang symbol on his 7-year old son. It's a heartbreaking story of how the child returned home to his mother, distraught and ashamed after spending Easter break with his father. He tried to hide the tattoo when taking a bath but his mother saw and called the cops when he told her the story of how his father held him down while another gang member forcibly tattooed a dog paw on his hip. Justice for this gangbanger would be some big jail daddy forcibly tattooing bitch on his ass. I know, not highbrow commentary but this just makes me sick.
It's these type of stories -- the negative associations with tattooing -- that perpetuate stereotypes and result in, say, idiot zoning regulations, like this one in Vista, CA that says a tattoo studio can't be located near parks, schools or child care facilities, as well as 1,000 feet from other parlors. Imagine passing a similar reg for nail salons or barber shops. Yeah, I can't either.
And of course it leads to personal tattoo discrimination, as Pat blogged about yesterday on Joel Madden having to cover his tattoos before boarding a flight because British Airways found them "offensive." [I love this Perez Hilton comment: "... Joel was embarrassed because 'all the people were staring and laughing! No, Joel, they were laughing because you're in Good Charlotte."] *giggle* Eonline.com says Joel did cover up to board to plane but will be complaining to BA. I won't be giving BA my business. If you'd like to voice your opinion to BA about this, here's their complaint form.
Quick and dirty links for y'all:
That's all I got, friends. Gonna do some more work on my book and then get ready for the Dogs of Winter acoustic show tonight at Corio. Join me there at 8pm.