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National News

U.S. Panel Advises Tattooed and Pierced Not Give Blood

March 15, 2002

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel voted on Thursday to continue a policy that requires people who have been pierced or tattooed to put off donating blood for a year after the procedure, but said those who have received acupuncture can safely give blood. The advisors to the FDA said they were concerned that loose regulation of tattoo and piercing establishments meant that non-sterile procedures might be used, increasing the potential for transmission of viruses. The panelists recommended that blood banks try to verify if tattoos or piercing were performed at a licensed facility. The FDA usually follows the advice of its panels.

Currently, people who have received a tattoo, a piercing, or acupuncture in an un-sterile environment must wait a year before donating blood. As a result, about 100,000 people are turned away from donating blood each year, blood banks estimate. The concern is that these people may have contracted viruses such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C through dirty needles or reused tattoo inks, and that these infections may be too recent to be picked up by blood screening. That worry has grown with the increased popularity of tattooing and piercing.

One study of New York state university students found that half had body piercings, and 23 percent had tattoos. Miriam Alter, of the viral hepatitis division of the CDC, told the panel that, based on available studies, tattoo and piercing recipients are not at increased risk for viruses. CDC is recommending against a routine ban on donations from people with tattoos or body piercing. Blood banks also said that new testing procedures now catch these viruses early in the infection process, which means contaminated blood can be discarded. But panelists said there still is a risk of contamination.

Back to other CDC news for March 15, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
03.14.02; Alicia Ault

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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