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February 12, 2001

Botched Body Piercing by Unlicensed Practitioners Can Make Young People Sick - Caution urged for Valentine Day piercings

Providence, RI (SafetyAlerts) - Having a ring pierced through a body part may signify a commitment to a relationship - or to fashion. Sometimes the results aren’t pretty.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is calling attention to health risks associated with body piercing, particularly piercings done somewhere besides the ear lobe by unlicensed practitioners. According to the Rhode Island Department Of Health, body piercing done anywhere but the soft lobe of the ear must be performed by a licensed body piercer or under medical supervision. And, if the would-be ring- or stud-wearer is under 18, piercing requires parental permission.

"One of the skin’s key roles is to keep bacteria and other invaders out," said Dr. Patricia A. Nolan, Director of the RI Department of Health. "If people choose to poke holes in it for jewelry, they should use practitioners who observe good technique and hygiene."

Only eight practitioners hold current licenses as body piercers in Rhode Island.

The concern stems from a small but growing number of reports about infection and soft tissue damage resulting from body piercing, particularly involving body parts other than the ear lobe. The Department (HEALTH) has received calls from those who received the piercing, parents and pediatricians.

Piercing complications can include scaring and skin damage, bacterial infections, hepatitis B, HIV and, when the tongue is pierced, tooth damage. HEALTH requires licensed practitioners to maintain defined levels of cleanliness and keep records of all procedures. Practitioners must instruct their clients about follow-up procedures to prevent infection. Even when a licensed body piercer follows procedures perfectly, body piercing can result in complications if the pierced area is not kept clean and or gets rubbed during the healing process.

To see if your State requires licensing, and to find a list of qualified and/or licensed practitioners contact your State Department of Health for more information.

HEALTH provides information about licensed body piercing technicians in Rhode Island on its web site:

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