The Glory of Clean Holes 

Oregon Toughens Piercing Laws

Last September, in the small town of Klamath Falls, seven people who had recently pierced their ears came down with infections so severe their ears were literally disfigured to the point of needing surgery and aggressive antibiotics. Through dirty needles and other unsanitary practices, they were infected with a bacteria called Pseudomonas Aeruginosa--a relative of E.Coli.

Everyone survived the infection, but the breakout has inspired the state to change piercing laws in the state. "Body piercing has grown so fast in Oregon that the laws just couldn't keep up," says Kevin Weeks, Communications Coordinator for the Oregon Health Licensing Office. Currently there are 695 licensed body piercing technicians in Oregon--a number that has grown 250 percent since 1996.

Among the changes in the piercing laws will be the introduction of a program called "Wants and Needles," which sends Oregon State Health Officials into public schools in order to educate students on the importance of sanitation and safety in body piercing. "Our message will definitely not be 'don't pierce,'" says Weeks. "It will just try to impress upon kids the risks involved with unsafe piercing."

The other changes include more focus on the license of the piercer, rather than the facility. "Technicians will need to have basic first aid, have been trained in aftercare procedures, and be a minimum of 18 [years old]," explained Weeks. "Until now, it would have been possible for someone under 18 to actually give a piercing, even though they couldn't receive one," adds Weeks.

Oregon has always been a leader in body-piercing laws, probably because the state has one of the highest number of body piercing facilities in the nation. "So few states have any piercing regulations at all, that Oregon's laws are relatively very progressive," says Weeks.

The new rules--which are a change to Oregon's administrative rules--will be effective November 1, following a public hearing October 8 in Salem. Until September 28, members of the public are encouraged to voice their opinion to the State Licensing Office by calling 503-378-8667 or emailing hlo.info@state.or.us.

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