Tat­too reg­u­la­tion sorely needed for scarred clients

Nova Sco­tia’s Safe Body Art Act will fi­nally be en­forced next month, seven years af­ter it was first in­tro­duced.



Clarke has taken to so­cial me­dia to warn oth­ers about a lo­cal tat­too stu­dio that she says has left her with scar tis­sue and nerve dam­age.

Clarke was a for­mer client at the Bed­ford Tat­too Guest Spot last year. Two days later, she says the sun­flower de­sign on her fore­arm was filled with fluid. Af­ter re­turn­ing to the shop to ad­dress the prob­lem, Clarke says the tat­too artist made an at­tempt to pop the blis­ter with a thumb tac.

“He lit­er­ally just picked up a tac off his desk and wiped it off with an al­co­hol wipe and stuck it in,” she says. “I was like, ‘What did you just do?’”

She be­lieves the way the blis­ter was han­dled and the process of wrap­ping up the area con­trib­uted to fur­ther in­fec­tion of the tat­too, but staff at the tat­too shop ar­gued with her about the heal­ing process and, she says, dis­suaded her from seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment.

“I was also told never to see a doc­tor, no mat­ter what,” she says. “Af­ter about a week I gave up and had to see a doc­tor. I had no move­ment in my arm or wrist.”

The own­ers of BTGS did not re­spond to sev­eral re­quests to be in­ter­viewed.

Clarke has since been in dis­cus­sion with six other peo­ple who’ve had sim­i­lar painful ex­pe­ri­ences with Bed­ford Tat­too. The group is talk­ing about what ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion can be taken against the shop, but their op­tions might be lim­ited.

Nova Sco­tia cur­rently has no en­forced reg­u­la­tions for the tat­too in­dus­try. But that will fi­nally change next month. Come Fe­bru­ary, the province will im­ple­ment reg­u­la­tions around the body art in­dus­try, seven years af­ter the Safe Body Art Act was in­tro­duced.

It’s meant to give Nova Sco­tians the con­fi­dence that the fa­cil­i­ties that have ac­quired per­mits are us­ing safe prod­ucts and are work­ing to stop the spread of diseases.

“Re­quire­ments that must be met at a fa­cil­ity have to do with: con­struc­tion and main­te­nance, in­stru­ment han­dling and re­pro­cess­ing, record keep­ing and de­vel­op­ing an in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion plan,” says Bruce Nunn, spokesper­son for the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­ment, which is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing the act.

A Class One per­mit will grant per­ma­nent and mo­bile stu­dios per­mis­sion to tat­too and pierce clients. Those per­mits will need to be re­newed ev­ery 10 years at a cost of $195 plus HST. There will also be a Class Two per­mit avail­able for tem­po­rary events, ac­tive for 14 days af­ter ap­proval, at $30 plus HST.

Nunn says that many peo­ple in the in­dus­try want th­ese reg­u­la­tions in place, so the de­part­ment ex­pects there will be par­tic­i­pa­tion from the busi­nesses. If the rules aren’t fol­lowed, there will be con­se­quences.

“Our pub­lic health of­fi­cers will have a range of com­pli­ance tools that they can use dur­ing an in­spec­tion such as: ed­u­ca­tion; in­spec­tion or­ders; warn­ings; sum­mary of­fence tick­ets; long-form charges and re­vo­ca­tion of the fa­cil­ity’s per­mit,” says Nunn via email.

Julie Tay­lor, owner of the Skin De­ci­sion tat­too stu­dios in both Truro and Hal­i­fax, wel­comes the changes, and even had the province come in for mock in­spec­tions of her stu­dio last month in prepa­ra­tion of the Act’s en­force­ment.

Tay­lor says if she gets calls about po­ten­tial in­fec­tions she al­ways ed­u­cates her clients about the heal­ing process for body art. She rec­om­mends her clients see a doc­tor if the tat­too leads to an in­fec­tion.

“We’re go­ing to go over what a nor­mal heal­ing pierc­ing or tat­too would look like and then if they think they do have an in­fec­tion, then I’m go­ing to tell them to go see a doc­tor,” says Tay­lor.

None of which is much help right now to Clarke, whose doc­tor tell her she has se­vere scar tis­sue and some pos­si­ble nerve dam­age from the in­fec­tion.


Newly en­forced reg­u­la­tions might make tat­toos less of a pain.

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