Macedonia, Ohio, tattoo artist Jerry Davis, 40, takes exception to Seckel's charges. Davis tells WebMD, "Dentists don't operate in hospitals. They learn all the necessary procedures for sterilization and disposal of hazardous materials. If they can learn it, who is to say that we can't learn it, too?"
Davis, who has operated a studio in the basement of an old schoolhouse for the last 15 years, says that he is interested in improving the image of tattoo artists and in improving health standards.
In his studio, where the walls are covered with thousands and thousands of tattoo designs, he points out that he has initiated some safety measures not required by Ohio law. For example, he insists that all his artists cover the tattoo machine -- he objects to the term tattoo gun -- in plastic to protect against blood splatter.
He says the entire tattoo machine cannot be placed in a sterilizer because it would be ruined. He does, however, sterilize the tubes that hold the pigment and the bar that holds the needles. He uses disposable needles "that are removed and disposed of in the presence of the customer."
Davis says he and the five artists he employs have all been tested for hepatitis B and have current vaccinations. They have not, however, been tested for hepatitis C, but he plans to change that. "I didn't know about this but now that I do, I will be tested. I would like to live to a ripe old age and to see my kids graduate from college, so I want to stay healthy," says Davis.
Husband and wife Hugh O'Donnell and Jenny Grospitch, both 30, say they are very happy with their 5-year-old tattoos. The Lakewood, Ohio couple says they did ask their tattoo artist about safety practices.
"We picked this place because it had a good reputation for safe practices and because the artist could do original designs," says Grospitch. She says she doesn't plan to get any more tattoos, but O'Donnell says he plans to get at least one more.