The Investigators: Untrained tattoo artists pose health risk - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Untrained tattoo artists pose health risk

(WMC-TV) - Tattoo artists say scratchers, or untrained and unlicensed tattoo artists, are putting people in danger.

Tattoo artist Steve Cupp has been outspoken about safe tattooing practices since 1997, when he started creating body art.  He said he is shocked by what he has seen grow in popularity lately.

"You know, they'll come in with holes in them, pus and all kinds of stuff, and they end up hospitalized," said Cupp.

Cupp is referring to the aftermath of "scratching,"  A scratcher is typically someone who taught himself how to tattoo with the help of videos and homemade tattooing equipment.

"As it grows, people think they want to be a part of it," said Cupp.  "They'll get on the internet and find a machine and find some needles."

Professional tattoo artists said the untrained practice could be deadly.

"There are tons of infections, you can get Hepatitis A, B, C," said Cupp.  "There's staph infection, there is MRSA."

Scratchers often advertise on places like Craigslist.  A quick search turned up ads for scratching in Memphis and the surrounding areas.

"It's a fast and easy way to make money," said professional tattoo artist Alex Cooper.

Cooper escaped tattoo infection from a scratcher at age 16, but still warned against them.

"It's nasty, and if it's not taken care of properly, you're going to the hospital or worse," he said.

Professionals said if you are thinking about getting a tattoo, make sure the artist follows strict health and safety precautions, with sterilization techniques monitored by health officials.

If a studio is run by a professional, you will see equipment packaged in protective pouches that remain sealed until opened in front of a customer.

There are strict rules and regulations for tattooing that vary from state to state.  For more information, click the following links:

For tattoo rules in Arkansas, click here.

For tattoo rules in Mississippi, click here.

For tattoo rules in Tennessee, click here.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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