Public Safety

New Body Art Law Will Increase Safety Regulations

A new state law modeled largely on the existing San Diego County ordinance is upping the regulations ante on body art practitioners this July.

The new law will not change business dramatically in the county, since some cities have already adopted it as well. However, it is standardizing body art regulations across the state.

The County Department of Environmental Health (DEH), which oversees body art facility inspections, began working on upgrading its current ordinance at the same time the state code officers were developing a state law, said Stephen Spence, DEH program coordinator. Ultimately, the county presented its upgraded ordinance to the state and worked locally with the state to develop the new law, he said.

The state law requires all body art businesses and their staff who apply tattoos, permanent cosmetics, piercings and yes, even brandings to register and be subject to an inspection. One significant difference in the new law requires body piercing practitioners to undergo an inspection of their personal equipment when previously, they only had to be registered, said Spence.

“When we look at body art, the main thing we’re trying to do is prevent infectious diseases which are caused by blood-borne pathogens,” said Spence. “We’re trying to make sure instruments are maintained and everything is sanitary within a facility.”

Some facilities use one-time only equipment such as sterile tubes and grips, but for those that do not, they need to have proper sterilization of their equipment to prevent diseases such as hepatitis C. All practitioners must also undergo blood-borne pathogens training before registering every year and they must have a current hepatitis B vaccination.

A lengthy list of strict sanitation and equipment codes are also required.

“The bottom line is we want to protect the health and safety of the public,” Spence said. “The new law will eliminate the garage-type tattoo artists and set statewide safety standards for body art.”

Facilities and staff who pierce ears with a mechanical stud device using a sterile single-use needle are exempt, but they must adhere to specified requirements for the practice.

The facilities that do not comply could be closed down and could face administrative fees.

County Chronicles: Safety Stickler

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact