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Blog - DC Tattoo Regulations (And What You Can Do)

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By Derek Avery 2 years ago 2061 Views
National Art Gallery
By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C. tattoo artists are up in arms over the newly proposed additions to the city's Body Art Establishment Regulations, and with good reason. While the proposal removes some of the previous pain points (like the "24 hour waiting period" the D.C. Health Department abandoned in late April after a massive backlash from the public), it adds regulations under the guise of "public suggestions." [See: Page 1] Specifically, these public suggestions call for:

1. All tattoo artists to use hollow needles.

2. "Purchase all disposable, single-use, pre-sterilized medical grade instruments...from medical suppliers licensed or registered in the District of Columbia."

The first point makes it painfully obvious that the District of Columbia has no clue how the industry they are looking to regulate works. Hollow needles are the industry standard for piercing because they are engineered to cut, as opposed to puncturing, the skin. Using hollow, beveled needles for tattooing would just leave a hot mess of scar tissue behind; these "hollow tattoo needles" don't exist for a reason.

The second point is more about poor planning than anything else. The new regulations state that all purchases of needles, gloves, disinfectant and more would need to be purchased from registered medical suppliers in the District of Columbia. The problem? There is currently no way for suppliers to register. Even if the District corrected this (major) oversight, the cost for tattoo suppliers to register with the District of Columbia would never outweight the benefits of selling to such a small population of artists - effectively banning tattoo artists from buying supplies.

Other fun regulations ban any body art on customers below the age of 18 except for ear piercing using an ear piercing gun.(202.3a) Which would make sense - if the law didn't say two bullets later (in section 202.3c) that no one under 18 is permitted on the premises!

These new regulations are poorly thought out, badly designed and demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of what tattoo artists do. It would be terrible if these regulations actually passed and became law. So what can you do about it?

The main thing you can do is sign the petition started by The DC Coalition of Professional Body Artists at; click here to sign. If you don't live in DC, the second best thing you can do is get the word out. Tell people what is happening and have them sign the petition, too; DC Health withdrew their 24-hour waiting period rule because of public outrage. This set of regulations is getting less publicity, but you can help make a difference for your fellow artists.

So sign, share, and spread the word; let's convince DC to work out regulations that work with the industry instead of against it.

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