What does infection control mean to you?

With recent report of a rise in Hepatitis C in the under 20’s; and with all obvious routes having been eliminated; research has indicated that the increase is said to be due to either Home Tattoo’s, Unregistered Tattooist and Self Piercers. Whilst a lot of blame seems to be placed at the door of the unregistered home tattooist there are still unfortunately registered tattooists and piercers who will cut corners or do not fully respect or understand the importance of infection control within their studios. Tattoo and Piercing paraphernalia is readily available to purchase via the Internet; a purchase source for many professionals; but in the wrong hands could have life changing results.

When you walk into your chosen studio you assume that your tattooist or piercer will automatically follow correct procedures. But as the customer you only see a small part of the Infection Control Procedure, unless of course your studio readily shares their practices or you ask the direct questions.

So as the customer, what should you see happen without question.
• An obviously clean studio.
• No overflowing rubbish bins.
• A clean and clutter free working tattoo or piercing station.
• A ready supply and use of disposable gloves.
• Soap and paper hand towels.
• Un-opened packages (needles and jewellery).
• A useable sharps container (normally a yellow box).
• A consent form and aftercare instruction.
• A displayed local authority registration certificate.

Your tattooist or piercer may have prepared their station in anticipation of your arrival, but you should still be able to observe the opening of any packages and the dispensing of ink into your individual pots. This should all be done with the tattooist or piercer wearing gloves.

So as the customer, what don’t you see that should happen behind the scenes?
• A cleaning schedule in place.
• All hard surfaces sanitised between customers.
• Spilt ink cleaned away (including from the floors).
• All re-usable equipment is washed with soap and water, and then ultrasonically cleaned prior to being sterilising in an autoclave.
• A record of the autoclave cycle is checked and retained.
• Either a contract or an agreement with an authorised collector of hazardous waste.
• A record of purchases for ink, needles and jewellery from reputable suppliers.
• Blood borne pathogen (infection control) training.

What is an Ultrasonic Cleaner?
An ultrasonic cleaner is a cleaning device that uses ultrasound (usually from 20–400 kHz) and an appropriate cleaning solution. The Ultrasonic cleaning uses Cavitation bubbles induced by high frequency pressure (sound) waves, which agitates the liquid. This agitation removes contaminates on substances like metal (grips, tips, tubes, clamps and forceps etc.) penetrating into cracks and recesses. Resulting in the removal of all traces of contamination including, but not excusive to, ink, blood and fingerprints.

What is an Autoclave?
An autoclave is a device that uses steam to sterilize equipment, and is used within Dental, Hospital, Veterinary establishments and Tattooing and Piercing studios. There are two main types of autoclave sterilizers available; steam and chemical; however steam is the preferred choice for Tattoo and Piercing Studios. The steam in the autoclave reaches 121-148°C (250-300°F) in the pressure chamber at 15 P.S.I. Destroying any Microorganisms by heat, the addition of moisture speeds up this process. Steam entering the sterilization chamber under pressure condenses on contact with any cold items. This condensation frees heat, simultaneously heating and wetting all items in the load, creating heat and moisture. Any living thing will be killed when exposed to saturated steam at 120°C (250° F) for longer than 15 minutes. At the end of the cycle, the re-evaporation of water will effectively dry contents, which will maintain the items sterility.
An Autoclave is therefore an important piece of equipment; and for your professional the purchase or lease of an autoclave is not only a necessity but also a big financial commitment. No matter what you are told kitchen pressure cookers cannot not reach the temperature or pressure required to effectively kill blood borne pathogens (bacteria). It is worth undertaking some research yourself and you will quickly see that medical Autoclaves (sterilizers) are designed specifically for killing bacteria and other pathogens; and therefore are essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing.