Is Your Tattoo Safe ?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recognized the risks associated with the use of small sterilizers
in the tattoo and piercing industries in the potential transmission of blood related diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis-B,
and HIV. If you were to receive a tattoo or piercing with un-sterile equipment that was previously used on an infected person, you
could be at risk in contracting the disease. As a result, tattoo, piercing, and permanent cosmetic businesses are rapidly coming under
new regulations involving the sterilization of equipment used in their daily operations. These regulations generally outline requirements
for testing their sterilizers (autoclaves) with spore strips, also called biological indicators. Some states currently have no regulations
requiring spore testing. Some states that do have regulations do not actively audit the studios to ensure the testing is being done.
Whether a tattoo or piercing studio is required by law to be performing routine spore testing or not, it should be a part of their
standard operating procedure. Routine spore strip testing not only ensures that the sterilization equipment being used is capable
of sterilizing, but also encompasses the operators ability to run the autoclave in a manner that can achieve sterilization.

Sterlility testing is performed by trained microbiology technicians under Class 100 Cleanroom conditions to avoid false positives and ensure the integrity of test results.
All positive tests are plated, gram stained, and examined microscopically to ensure they are the Bacillus indicator organism.


So what is a spore strip test and how does it work? The business owner contacts an independent sterility testing laboratory
and purchases a spore strip test kit. The kit is usually delivered through the U.S. Postal System. On a routine basis, typically
weekly or monthly, the autoclave operator places a spore strip in the sterilizer with a normal load of packaged items to be sterilized.
When the sterilization cycle is complete, the spore strip is mailed back to the testing laboratory for further processing. If the test
result is negative growth, indicating sterility, an acceptable test report is mailed back to the business to be kept on record. If the test
result is positive growth, indicating a sterilization failure, the business is contacted immediately by telephone and informed of the
problem with the sterilizer. A positive (failed) spore test report is then sent to the studio and should also be kept on record. If a tattoo
studio receives a positive sterility failure, they should quarantine all items that have been sterilized with that sterilizer and not use them
on customers. Once they have identified and corrected the problem with their sterilizer, the items should be re-packaged and re-sterilized.
A sterilizer that has failed a spore test should not be used until the problem has been corrected and a negative (passing) spore test is performed.

Aseptic technique and sterile conditions are necessary for sterility testing.
Susan Putthoff, B.S. Chemistry, conducting sterility tests in the Class 100 Cleanhood.


If these procedures are followed, the studio has demonstrated that their sterilizer is working properly and that they are working to
ensure your health and safety through proper sterilization practices. So if you're planning on getting a tattoo or piercing, be sure to ask
to see their documentation that their sterilization equipment has successfully passed a spore strip test. If a studio has no records of
routinely passing spore tests, there is no way you can be assured that their sterilization process is safe.

Written by Tymn Combest, Microbiologist, Enviro-Tech Laboratories, Inc., San Angelo, Texas