Illegal tattooing becomes growing problem locally

Published 11:22 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Illegally tattooing without a license is a growing problem in the Tri-State as well as throughout the country.

Danny Van Sickle, owner of DVS Ink and Iron Kustom Tattoos and Body Piercings at 106 S. Third St. in Ironton, said this has been a problem ever since he started tattooing in 1995.

“I’ve dealt with this for years,” Van Sickle said. “It used to be so hard to get equipment with no license. Now eBay and other places online sell kits all day long.”

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Van Sickle said people who get tattooing equipment without getting a license not only creates problems to his business and other legal tattoo shops, but health risks to all who give and receive tattoos illegally.

“I worked hard to get my license to be able to get a shop and they’re out here tattooing illegally as a tax evasion and getting paid under the table. That’s taking food out of my kids’ mouths as a tattoo shop owner,” Van Sickle said. “Most of them don’t have any first aid and bloodborne pathogen training either and they’re working with blood and cross contaminating. A lot of illegal artists are drug addicts too, which doubles the problem.”

John McKean, environmental health director at the Ironton City Health Department, said tattooing without a license is against the law in the Ohio Revised Code and the city health department is doing what it can to stop the problem in Ironton.

“If we get word of someone tattooing illegally, we go to that residence and talk to them and make an attempt to stop them,” McKean said. “Since I’ve been in Ironton, we haven’t walked in on someone actually giving a tattoo at the time, but they usually start talking and we make them aware and monitor their activity.”

McKean said the health department has recently pursued two illegal tattoo artists in Ironton.

“I want to get the word out on the health risks involved,” McKean said. “There are a lot of diseases that can transmit through dirty tattooing.”

Van Sickle said more regulations on illegal tattooing would open up opportunities for good tattoo artists as well as tattoo shops.

“I wouldn’t be struggling right now if there were more regulations,” Van Sickle said. “Good artists could start working in shops, which would make tattoos cheaper. It would get rid of those health problems and financial problems.”

Van Sickle, who won the Best of Show Award last year at the Easyriders Grand Nationals Rodeo Tour Tattoo Contest in Chillicothe, has owned his tattoo shop in Ironton for four years and has previously owned shops in Ashland, Kentucky and Portsmouth.