The tattoo and piercing industry has not been regulated until today, with the release of new guidelines for best practice - and it's about time, says Ayesha Muttucumaru

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With the likes of trendsetters Rihanna , Cara Delevingne  and One Direction (apart from the innocent little Irish one of course) presenting a freshly inked array of tats and newly pierced orifices on an almost weekly basis, it would be logical to assume that this growing sector of the beauty industry would be subjected to an intense amount of scrutiny right? Well until today, unfortunately the answer to that assumption would be a rather concerning no.

While there are legal measures in place requiring the registration of premises and model bylaws specifying general standards, there are shockingly no rules regarding the qualifications and training of practitioners carrying out the tattooing and body piercing procedures. Particularly scary, considering the health risks that can arise from improper practice such as an increased chance of spreading blood-borne viruses like Hepatitis B, C, and HIV.

Thankfully today, to help encourage change and a greater degree of regulation, a new landmark Tattooing and Body Piercing Guidance Toolkit   has been released to provide practical information to support both local authorities and businesses in England to adopt safe standards of practice and determine requirements for effective control of risk.

What’s often lacked in the past is clear guidance on good standards of hygiene and safety but fortunately, these guidelines look to address the problem by providing more transparency, a greater level of consistency across the sector and better support to practitioners and businesses undertaking these activities to support them in adopting acceptable standards of practice.

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According to Ian Gray, Principal Policy Officer for The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health ( CIEH ),“The use of this guidance will help to ensure the health and safety of both clients and operators and that tattooing and skin piercing practitioners will be operating in compliance with legal requirements.

“By making this toolkit available to both businesses and the local authority officers responsible for the regulation of their activities, we are creating a level playing field. We intend this to promote agreement on requirements and consistency in their application which will encourage compliance and provide reassurance for the clients who wish to undergo these procedures.”

Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health and Protection and Medical Director for the Public Health England Press Office ( PHE )  adds, “The importance of this guidance for the industry has been recognised by many health professionals and practitioners alike, and I am delighted to support and endorse this toolkit.”

The guidance is open for review over the next six months (up until the 8th of February 2014) and health and industry professionals are encouraged to contact Ian Gray of the CIEH to share their views.

With the hope that these guidelines will be able to initiate action to bridge the gaps in safety standards, their introduction will come as a reassuring read for all. About time, we say.

The Tattoo and Body Piercing Guidance Toolkit will be made available on the CIEH website from today.  Click here for full details