Tattoo health warning as ‘rogue’ artist is arrested

Unlike Dragonheart Tattoos in Portobello, some artists don't have full qualifications
Unlike Dragonheart Tattoos in Portobello, some artists don't have full qualifications
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A HEALTH warning has been issued to body art fans after a suspected rogue tattoo artist was arrested in the Capital.

The 28-year-old man had allegedly been operating a mobile tattooing business, which would see him travel to customers’ homes to carry out his work, despite not having the proper qualifications or licences.

Following the arrest, health chiefs warned of the dangers of using unlicensed tattooists, saying unhygienic equipment could spread viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Erik Grieve, a tattoo artist at Tribe Tattoos in Broughton Street, said amateur tattooists were becoming increasingly common, with the industry being glamorised by television shows such as Miami Ink.

Mr Grieve said: “It’s a huge concern. There’s artistic dangers and the health implications can be horrendous.

“The licensing laws mean any studio has to apply for a licence, pay for it and be inspected. The council will come and make sure studios are up to the same hygiene standards as hospitals.

“Now people can get a cheaper tattoo from people who don’t know what they’re doing. But the reason tattoos in legitimate studios are expensive is because we’ve got to have the licences and proof we do know what we’re doing.”

Mr Grieve said studios receive regular visits from customers asking them to cover or remove botched tattoos by unlicensed individuals.

“It ends up costing the customer a lot more because we’re having to work out of our normal constraints,” he said. “It’s not fair on the customers and the artists who have spent years developing their skill and paying for licences. You wouldn’t get a mate round to do your electrics because he’s bought a soldering iron on eBay.”

The 28-year-old was arrested on Friday following a joint investigation by Lothian and Borders Police and council environmental wardens, after they received intelligence to suggest an allegedly unlicensed tattooist was operating in the Capital and Midlothian.

Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health medicine, appealed to anybody who has recently had a tattoo that was not from a licensed tattoo parlour to contact NHS Lothian’s health protection team.

He added: “Unhygienic tattoo equipment carries a risk of infection of blood-borne viruses, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.”

A police spokesman said: “It is likely that only a small number of people have been affected. However, we are keen to make sure anyone who received a tattoo at home from an individual they met in Edinburgh seeks advice.”

The health protection team can be contacted on 0131-465 5420 during office hours from Monday to Friday.