Public health departments would regulate body piercing and other “body art” businesses under an N.C. House bill that unanimously passed a committee Tuesday.
State law currently requires inspections and permits for tattoo parlors, but the regulations don’t apply to piercings – aside from age requirements that prevent kids and teens from getting pierced without a parent’s permission. House Bill 250 was proposed by county public health directors who want to ensure the people offering piercings are running clean and safe operations.
“I think most people think it’s regulated now,” said Rep. Kevin Corbin, a Macon County Republican and sponsor of the bill. “They think if you’re doing piercing and some kind of body alterations, you have some kind of license.”
Corbin said a permitting and inspection process is needed because unregulated piercings can lead to the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. He pointed to statistics showing that the number of reported cases of hepatitis C in North Carolina tripled between 2010 and 2015. Many of the cases come from sharing needles.
“When tattooing and piercing are properly regulated, hepatitis C is not spread,” he said.
Rep. Marvin Lucas, a Democrat from Spring Lake, said he supports the bill but is unsure how the regulations would work in practice. “Some people who practice this body art activity really provide orifices in the navel or places that are not normally exposed to the public,” he said. “The question is how do we monitor this?”
Rep. Greg Murphy – a Greenville Republican and co-sponsor of the bill who’s also a doctor – said investigations of piercing businesses would likely start when someone visits a doctor with an infection or other complication.
“I don’t think there’s going to be an investigation squad that’s going to be looking at belly buttons,” Murphy said. “This is obviously a big health care issue. These places need to be reined in or at least have sanitary conditions.”
The bill’s regulations would also apply to other forms of “body art” beyond tattoos and piercings. It includes branding, which is when permanent marks on skin are made with a hot iron, similar to the technique used to mark cattle. Another technique included is “scarification,” which is defined in the bill as “scratching, etching or cutting of designs to produce a scar on a human being for ornamentation or decoration.” A third category is “the insertion of an object under the skin of a person for ornamentation or decoration.”
Anyone who violates the regulations would be charged with a misdemeanor.
The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee. An identical bill was filed Tuesday in the Senate.