Proposed legislation could regulate body art


Blood banks, tattoo artists, body piercing technicians and lawmakers are collaborating to make body art providers and facilities state regulated.

A bill authored by Rep. Julie Bunn, DFL-St. Paul, that would make the Minnesota Department of Health responsible for licensing body art establishments and technicians is gaining momentum this session. The bill will be reviewed today by a health and human services House committee.

A Senate version of the bill was passed last year.

The bill is designed to comply with American Red Cross and American Association of Blood Banks standards to eliminate the 12-month deferral period for blood donations following new tattoos or piercings.

“Tattooing and other forms of body art have become more mainstream,” limiting the amount of people who are eligible to donate, Bunn said.

Health and safety standards would require a sink in each station, partitions between stations for the privacy of clients and single-use needles for all procedures, among other provisions. In the Twin Cities, most body art establishments and artists comply with these standards already, Bunn said.

Currently, technicians and establishments are licensed by the county in which they are located. Regulations vary throughout the state with vast differences between Hennepin and Ramsey counties alone.

Ramsey County does not regulate body art, but tattoo parlors in St. Paul are licensed by the city. Although it’s not required, many tattoo parlors in St. Paul already operate under the standards in the bill, Bunn said.

The new legislation will not create many new regulations for body art establishments and technicians in Hennepin County, but it would create consequences for individuals and businesses that violate the regulations.

“Rep. Bunn is willing to understand our industry,” said Jon Boy, owner of Dinkytown Tattoo and a tattoo artist of nine years.

Boy said he supports the bill because it would make tattooing safer and discourage artists from giving tattoos in their homes.

But Boy did express concern for businesses that are not currently following the standards set in the new bill because renovating to comply with them would be expensive.

Body art establishments in counties with strict regulation are at an economic disadvantage because they are putting money into maintaining more stringent standards. State regulation will level the field for the industry.

Minnesota blood banks will also benefit from the legislation.

Efficiency and safety are the key issues for Memorial Blood Centers Medical Director Dr. Jed Gorlin.

“If we do a blood drive at Hopkins High [School], where we collect a hundred students who may have gotten tattoos at 10 different parlors, we can’t be tracking what county each parlor is in,” he said. “It’s just not practical.”

Another issue arises when students who have donated previously decide to get body art, Gorlin said. The 12-month deferral interferes with the creation of lifelong donors.

“They get a tattoo and we reject them. The rate of not coming back after rejection is very high,” Gorlin said.

Ariel Cafarelli, a tattoo artist at Steady Tattoo in Stadium Village, said she would donate blood, but she has been getting tattooed since she was 18.

Cafarelli said refusing donors with new tattoos and piercings delegitimizes the art.

“If a licensed professional does your work, you shouldn’t be treated any differently. It just doesn’t make sense,” she added.

She also said she would support the legislation because it would bring more credibility to the profession.

Cafarelli said there are a lot of misconceptions about the safety of tattooing. Licensed body art technicians in Hennepin County operate by the same universal precautions used in the medical field and receive training on blood borne pathogens.

The legislation also takes a stand against the tattooing of minors. If passed, technicians will not tattoo minors even with parental consent.

This restriction came directly from industry professionals. Many body art establishments already choose not to tattoo minors with parental consent because of the permanency of the work and are concerned parents might influence what kind of art their children can get, Bunn said.

Dinkytown Tattoo and Steady Tattoo do not tattoo minors.

“Getting a tattoo when you turn 18 is a rite of passage,” Boy said.