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The Daily Tar Heel

Bill Governing Piercing Approved by N.C. House

The proposed legislation would be the only state regulation on piercing.

Under the legislation, piercing a minor without their guardians present would be a misdemeanor. Piercing parlors also would be required to apply for a license from their local health department. The license lasts for one year and requires that inspectors visit parlors frequently.

The bill now will head to the Senate for approval.

Rep. Frank Mitchell, R-Iredell, who sponsored the legislation, said he proposed the bill because of complaints from his district's health department.

"Iredell County's health department had been contacted by several people who had gotten piercings," he said. "The health department then contacted me with complaints because those people had infections."

Mitchell said he hopes the bill will not only increase sanitation in piercing businesses, but also increase public awareness of the dangers of piercings.

There have been isolated cases across the nation of people contracting hepatitis C and AIDS from dirty piercing tools, Mitchell said.

Ron Holdway, environmental health director for the Orange County Health Department, said he thinks the bill will be beneficial because, like tattoos, piercings can be harmful and there is no law allowing the state to inspect piercing parlors.

"If we're looking at tattoos as having a potential risk, there's an equal risk of infection for body piercing," he said. "We have no legal right to inspect piercing parlors. We don't even know how many facilities there are in this area."

Mike Erwin, a piercing artist at the Dogstarr Tattoo Company in Durham, said he already complies with common sanitary standards. "We know all about blood-born pathogens and we use sterilization, new needles and new jewelry every time," he said.

But some piercing artists think the bill has negative aspects.

An employee at Little John's Infinite Tattoos in Greensboro who identified himself as "Little Tommy" said he thought the bill was just a ploy by the government to get more of his money.

"Now they're going to start charging me for a tattoo permit in addition to a piercing permit, which costs $300 extra per year," he said. "I think that they get enough of my money as it is."

Erwin had a different type of complaint. He expressed concern that not enough measures are being taken to increase sanitation.

But Holdway said he believes the bill is a good start because people often are unaware of how to tell if a piercing parlor is sanitary. "In the scheme of things, unless a person is familiar with medical practices, they're not going to know what questions to ask to ensure sterilization," he said.

Mitchell said the purpose of his bill was not merely to improve sanitation. He said he hoped the bill would lead to fewer people getting piercings. "Hopefully, this will keep people from having so many piercings on their face, from going around looking like human tackle boxes."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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