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Tattoos: Standards Leave Their Mark

There's no question about it — tattoos are on the rise. A recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that 40% of American households included an individual with a tattoo, up from only 21% in 1999. Tattoos are particularly popular among younger Americans and have become a common sight in offices across the country, suggesting a sea change in views on these skin decorations. And as tattooing becomes more popular, the many voluntary consensus standards that help keep it safe and hygienic become increasingly important.

While your friendly neighborhood tattoo artist isn't a medical professional, he or she has a similar responsibility to take steps to minimize the chances that clients are exposed to blood-borne diseases and other health risk factors in connection with the tattooing process. By wearing sterile gloves and changing them between clients, practitioners can significantly reduce the risks to their clients and themselves. ISO 10282:2014, Single-use sterile rubber surgical gloves - Specification, was developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 45, Rubber and rubber products, Subcommittee (SC) 4, Products (other than hoses). ASTM International, an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member and audited designator, serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO TC 45 and SC 4.

Because serious illnesses can be spread by unclean needles, reputable tattooing studios make sure to have a trusted method for sterilizing their equipment before it is used on a new client. One of the most popular ways to sterilize is through the use of an autoclave, which uses pressure and heat. UL 61010A-2-041 (Ed. 1), Standard for Electrical Equipment for Laboratory Use; Part 2: Particular Requirements for Autoclaves Using Steam for the Treatment of Medical Materials and for Laboratory Processes, was developed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.), an ANSI member and audited designator.

Once a tattoo has been completed, effective aftercare is important to ensure that the tattoo heals correctly and looks its best. After your bandage comes off and you've gently washed the tattoo, using a small amount of petroleum jelly can help to reduce skin tightness and other discomfort. ISO 2137:2007, Petroleum products and lubricants - Determination of cone penetration of lubricating greases and petrolatum, was developed by ISO TC 28, Petroleum products and lubricants; ASTM International serves as the ANSI-approved U.S. TAG to that committee.

Many individuals also suffer swelling at the site of the new tattoo, an issue that can be treated by applying an ice pack to the area. An American National Standard (ANS) from ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) provides guidance covering the home freezers where many Americans get their ice. ANSI/AHAM HRF-1-2007, Energy, Performance and Capacity of Household Refrigerators, Refrigerator-Freezers and Freezers, sets down a uniform procedure for measuring specified product characteristics for domestic freezers and other similar appliances, along with recommended levels of performance.

Whether you're a tattoo enthusiast or just someone pondering your first bit of ink, voluntary consensus standards play an important role in supporting the safety of the tattooing process in tattoo parlors nationwide.

To learn more about how tattoos are created, check out this video from the Smarter Every Day YouTube Channel.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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