THOUSANDS of Brits have been left unwell after having a tattoo or piercing, a damning report reveals.
The Royal Society for Public Health is now calling for stricter controls to limit infections, burns and swellings.
It comes as figures show one in five people now have a tatt, with the number of parlours up 173 per cent in a decade.
A fifth of those who have had a tattoo, piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis in the last five years suffered side-effects.
The most common were burning or swelling, an RSPH poll of 886 customers reveals.
But they were also at risk of potentially deadly sepsis and HIV, potentially from dirty needles or an infected technician.
Two fifths of people who have had a procedure did not check if the person carrying it out was registered or licenced.
They were more likely to take an interest in the skill of the practitioner, the cleanliness of the shop and client reviews.
The RSPH warns anyone can open a shop and buy the necessary equipment without training or qualifications.
The growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and cosmetic procedures is all part and parcel of people choosing to express themselves
And their Skins and Needles report claims legislation and regulation in some parts of the UK is “not fit for purpose”.
Only the Welsh licensing requirements include a mandatory infection control qualification for technicians.
The RSPH want the sale of equipment restricted, infections reported to officials, and staff trained in how to limit them.
Shirley Cramer, from the RSPH, 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.
MANDATORY LICENSING SCHEME
“This matters because one in five people are still at very real risk of sepsis and other complications.
“We hope this report sparks a wider discussion about the need to provide safeguards and reassure those who seek to undertake body modification in all forms in the UK today.
“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.”
Nine in ten of the 2,000 people quizzed in a separate poll believe professionals should be required to hold infection control qualifications.
The RSPH is also calling for dermal fillers, which help plump out wrinkles, to be limited to people aged 18 and over.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “Getting a tattoo or piercing might appear cool, but ending up with hepatitis or sepsis certainly isn’t.
“The NHS will always be there for anyone who needs it, but shouldn’t be left to pick up the pieces from dodgy tattoo parlours who don’t take infection control seriously.
“All organisations involved need to take their responsibilities seriously, particularly when it comes to young people, and higher standards are long overdue.”