One in five people who get tattoos end up infected, experts warn

Laura Donnelly
Tattoos have become increasingly popular  - Rex 

One in five people who get tattoos and piercings suffer an infection, health experts have warned.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPCH) called for an overhaul of safety standards as it warned that the fashion is putting lives at risk.

A survey by the public health body found some 18 per cent of people who have had a tattoo, cosmetic piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis in the last five years experienced side effects.

The most common consequences were burning or swelling, the polling of 2,000 adults found.

But in the worst cases, infections can cause sepsis, which can be fatal.

One in 10 of those who experienced problems needed medical treatment, the survey found.

There is no standard legal infection control requirement across the UK for anyone offering tattoos, piercings or other treatments that compromise the skin barrier, the RSPH said.

It warned that currently this meant that anyone can set up shop without appropriate training.

There is also no specific legislation covering other invasive treatments, such as dermal fillers.

The RSPH warned that anyone could buy specialist equipment online to carry out tattooing or piercings, without the necessary training or qualifications.

One in five adults in Britain now have a tattoo, following a 173 per cent increase in the number of tattoo parlours in the decade to 2014.

The charity is calling for suppliers to only sell tattoo and piercing equipment to those who can provide evidence they are licensed by the local council.

Chief executive Shirley Cramer said: "The growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and cosmetic procedures is all part and parcel of people choosing to express themselves and their individual identity.

"However, the legislation and regulation of providers of these services, which ultimately protects the public, is markedly different across the UK and in some areas is not fit for purpose.

"This matters because one in five people are still at very real risk of sepsis and other complications.”

"We would call on the rest of the UK to follow the example set by Wales to ensure infection control and other health risks are minimised, by introducing a mandatory licensing scheme which will require practitioners in place to ensure that the risk of complications is reduced."