Rules sought for tattoo artists

19:05, May 25 2014
Peg Moorhouse
BIG WORRY: Willy Wills believes there should be strict regulations for tattoo artists partly because some artists use carcinogenic ink. He is pictured with the tall ink bottles he uses and the small ones he is concerned about.

A Blenheim tattoo artist wants the Marlborough District Council to introduce health and safety regulations for tattooists.

Black Rose Tattoo Emporium and Body Piercing owner Willy Wills will present his proposal to councillors next month during submissions on the council's draft annual plan.

Wills said he wanted to see age restrictions and strict rules around health and safety of tattoo artists.

According to a Ministry of Health response to an enquiry by Marlborough district councillor Laressa Shenfield, New Zealand has no regulations for the tattoo and piercing industry. The Ministry of Health had voluntary guidelines, but under the Health Act 1956 it was up to councils to improve and protect public health within their districts.

Some councils had passed by-laws and created licensing requirements for the tattoo and peircing industry, the letter said.

Wills said several tattooists in Blenheim had no experience. "People are buying kits and working at home and they think they can tattoo, but they just wreck people's bodies. They don't care."


Some were working with ink imported from China containing dangerous carcinogens such as arsenic, he said.

Selling startup tattoo kits was akin to selling startup surgery or dentist kits, Wills said.

People who wanted to become tattoo artists should have to do an apprenticeship or training, he said. "You can't just pick up a machine at home and start tattooing."

The quality of work, use of different inks, looking after needles and disposing of leftover ink were among issues people had to think about.

Hepatitis and Aids were the worst case repercussions for inexperienced tattooists who did not have proper sterilisation practices, he said. "I treat every client like they have hepatitis for my safety." They see at least one or two people each day who come in asking for them to fix up their tattoos, he said.

People only realised after it was done that they were hard to remove, Wills said.

Shenfield and fellow councillor Jamie Arbuckle have been helping Wills find out about regulations around tattooing, and National Party candidate Stuart Smith said he had been talking to Wills about the issue and would support him in his submission.

A Marlborough District Council representative could not be reached for comment.

The Marlborough Express