Health department warns of possibility of infection from unpermitted tattoo artists

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Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Macon County Public Health has determined that unpermitted tattoo artists have been operating within Macon County since March 1, 2015, and are still in operation. During this period, the only two permitted tattoo establishments authorized to operate in Macon County were Olde Anchor Tattoo, located at 115 Georgia Road and Polished Permanent Make-up located at 159 Heritage Hollow Circle.

“Since March 2015 we have received three complaints regarding individuals who may have been engaged in the illegal practice of tattooing without a permit,” said Macon County Health Department Director Jim Bruckner. “NC General Statute 14-400(a) states, engaging in the practice of tattooing without a permit is a direct violation of state law. The individuals named in the complaints we received were all directed in writing to immediately cease and desist from tattooing.”

North Carolina law (General Statute 130A-283) states that tattooing is a regulated practice and that, “No person shall engage in tattooing without first obtaining a tattooing permit from the Department.”

Bruckner briefed members of the board of health on Tuesday night and cautioned that while there are currently no known cases of infections occurring because of the unpermitted tattoo locations, it is a possibility and the health department is currently focusing on addressing that possibility.

The unpermitted tattoo artists may have exposed individuals they tattooed to infections. As a precaution, the health department is asking any individual who has received a tattoo by an unpermitted artist since March 15 to get tested for Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

“These diseases can infect individuals without causing noticeable symptoms and may only be detected in early stages by testing,” reads a press release approved by board members Tuesday night. “If you meet these criteria and would like to be tested, you may elect to be tested by your own provider or we will provide free testing at the health department.”

Letters were sent to the individuals suspected of operating without proper permits and according to Bruckner are no longer operating.

“There are currently no unpermitted establishments; however, since March of 2015 the health department has received two additional complaints regarding individuals who may be engaged in tattooing in Macon County without a permit,” said Bruckner. “If this individual continues to engage in the practice of tattooing without a permit we will explore the possibility of take further administrative and/or legal actions.”

Bruckner was also clear that there is no concern of infection for persons who received tattoos by the two permitted tattoo artists within the county.

Macon County Board of Health Chairman Chris Hanners asked if permitting fees played into why people were operating without the permit. Environment health specialist Kyle Jennings noted that Macon County currently charges the highest fee allowed for the establishments and it is likely that the high cost of the fees may be a deterrent for businesses to be properly permitted.

It currently cost $700 annually for a business to obtain necessary permits to operate legally in Macon County. That $700 fee covers the cost of the permit for the establishment. There is then an additional $500 permitting fee for every artist operating within a permitted establishment.

Jennings noted that in addition to the fees, another reason businesses may be operating without permits is because in general it allows the cost of doing business to be cheaper for them.

“The processes associated with the practice of tattooing if not done correctly could have a devastating and long term impact on an individual’s health,” said Bruckner. “This is a public health issue and these regulations are set up to protect the public from potentially harmful diseases, i.e. Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).  As a local health department we have a very important role in protecting the health of all Macon County residents and we take these matters very seriously which is why we are asking anyone who may have received an illegal tattoo to get tested.”

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