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NCCEH Student Project Award 2012 - S Jalili

An Investigation on Organic Contaminants on Tattoo Machines

S Jalili
BC Institute of Technology: Environmental Health

North America's core cultural reference books, professional journals, and magazines recognize tattooing as a well-established art form. Over the last three decades, tattooing has gained increased popularity worldwide. For Canada, in addition to federal guidelines, several provinces have regulations and guidelines to reduce the risk of disease transmission in tattoo parlours. The Health Canada guidelines for tattoo parlours state that a tattoo machine should be covered using a plastic bag during the tattooing procedure, but a significant number of tattoo artists do not follow this recommendation.

The electromagnetic tattoo machine is the most widely used tattoo apparatus in North America and the general belief amongst tattoo artists is that in the presence of a plastic bag an electrostatic charge is created due to the rapidly oscillating needle bar, which in turn increases the organic contaminants on the tattoo machine. The purpose of the study was to analyze the organic contaminate that settles on a tattoo machine during the tattooing procedure and to assess whether bagging a tattoo machine results in an increase in organic load.

Using Quick Swabs, 19 samples were collected from a Bagged Tattoo Machine and another 19 from an Unbagged Tattoo Machine. The swabs were then analyzed through an ATP Hygiene Monitoring System and the data points (Relative Light Units) were compared. The results showed a 3-fold increase in organic load when the tattoo machine was left unbagged, indicating that a plastic cover provides an extra level of safety by reducing the organic contaminant that settles on the tattoo machine.