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Sacramento, Calif.ย – More than 40 percent of college students falsely believe that tattooing and body piercing are unlikely to pose health risks, researchers from UC Davis and Sacramento State University have found.

The two universities have teamed up to address the lack of awareness with an innovative new multimedia campaign that educates young people about ways to prevent spread of viral hepatitis C when getting tattoos or piercings.

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Be Smart with Body Art is a project of the UC Davis Cancer Center-Sacramento State University Partnership, in association with young adult cancer survivors and tattoo and piercing professionals. The campaign launched today aims to raise awareness that body art done improperly can lead to the spread of viral blood diseases such as hepatitis C, a disease that is only successfully treated in about 50 percent of cases. And it will arm young people with questions to ask the artist before getting a tattoo or piercing.

‘We want to give accurate information about safe tattooing that individuals can use themselves and share with others,’ said Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater, a faculty member with the UC Davis School of Medicine and Cancer Center. ‘The hepatitis C virus can lead to liver disease and liver cancer, and our goal is to prevent new infections by informing young adults of all the ways it can be transmitted.’

Professor Heather Diaz, a Sacramento State health sciences faculty member, added that the campaign does not intend to discourage tattooing and body piercing. ‘We just want people to be smart and safe about it,’ she said. ‘We hope to partner with many professional tattoo artists to help us spread the message to Be Smart with Body Art.’

5 important questions of a tattoo artist before getting a tattoo

ย•Do you use only new needles?
ย•Do you use new ink caps for each client?
ย•Do you sterilize all equipment that may come in contact with blood?
ย•Do you wear single-use latex gloves?
ย•Do you cover fresh tattoos to prevent infection or hepatitis C virus transmission?

The Be Smart with Body Art campaign already has been endorsed by two major industry associations.

‘It’s long overdue,’ said Mike Martin, a tattoo artist in San Diego and coordinator for health and education for the Alliance of Professional Tattooists. ‘We are professionals, we love our industry, and we want to take care of it.’

The Association of Professional Piercers, a California-based international organization that advocates for safe piercing, also backs the campaign. Citing inconsistent and often lax local health codes related to body art, the group’s treasurer, Paul King, said, ‘since there are no standardized statewide codes for body art practices at this time, it is imperative that this preventative health and safety information on hepatitis C is made available to young adults.’

Diaz and Friederichs-Fitzwater say they plan to take the program to other campuses throughout the state and, eventually, the rest of the country.

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