Canada: HIV, Hepatitis Tests Urged After Unlicensed Tattoo Parlors Closed in Calgary

After receiving tips from the public, Calgary health officials shut down seven unlicensed tattoo and piercing parlors during recent investigations. Officials said customers of the establishments listed below should seek testing for hepatitis C and HIV, as they could have been exposed to instruments that may not have been sterilized. They said the same precautionary testing should be sought by customers of any home-based or mobile tattoo parlors.

"We actually have no idea how many clients these seven unapproved facilities might have had," said Dr. Judy MacDonald, Calgary's deputy medical health officer. "Since they didn't keep client records at all, there's just no way of knowing."

"If that equipment is not properly clean and sterilized, [blood-borne] viruses can stay on the equipment, and then when it's used on someone else, that's how it gets transferred from one person to another," MacDonald said.

The requirements for parlors to be licensed are health-based, but they say nothing about a licensee's artistic training or skill, said Steve Peace, owner of Immaculate Concept Tattoo, an approved parlor. "Tattoos have been trying to come out of the gutter for 100 years and, pretty much, we're finally there. The guys at home aren't really following the rules," he said. "Seven, that's a low number. I'd say there's more out there. There's about 100 I'd say, easy."

Approved parlors must pass an initial health check and receive inspections every six to 12 months, said Mark Fehr, Calgary's zone manager for environmental public health. Health officials say investigations are ongoing and more closures are expected.

The facilities shuttered were Dustin Blatz Tattooing, Grave Marking Tattoo, Latino Tattoo Removal, Norm's Tattoos, Piercer Dan, and Tattoo Girl. Outlaw Tattoo was also closed for improper procedures but has since received approval to operate.