Health minister proposes registration system for tattoo artists

With 13 percent of the adult population tattooed, many say that more oversight is needed

Anyone with a working pair of eyes can attest to the fact that tattoos are extremely popular in Denmark. Some 600,000 Danes – or roughly 13 percent of the adult population – have tattoos. But while the number of tattooed Danes increases, so too does the number of people who suffer complications and discomfort from their ink.

Therefore, the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), has suggested creating a voluntary registration system for the nation’s tattoo artists. Krag told Berlingske newspaper that a registration system will help “protect consumers against risks associated with tattooing”.

Following an episode of public broadcaster DR’s consumer affair programme ‘Kontant’ in May 2011 that showed that the Danish tattoo industry was largely unregulated, both politicians and tattoo artists alike have called for more rules in the industry. The programme revealed that many of the inks used for tattooing were both contaminated and included chemicals originally produced for industrial use, such as vehicle enamel.

The programme also featured a Jutland man who had to have his leg amputated after a tattoo became infected.

Generally, problems with tattoos are less severe and include itching, swelling and infections.

Krag said that the registration system would help to inform consumers and help them make the wise choices when they get tattooed.

“It will give citizens the opportunity to make a calculated decision to use a registered tattoo artist that has been fulfilled basic education requirements – for example, a hygiene course –  and who doesn’t use harmful tattoo ink,” Krag told Berlingske.

But Krag’s registration system is voluntary, which was criticised by doctors and tattooists.

“This is a health issue,” Jørgen Serup, a skin doctor at Bispebjerg Hospital, told Berlingske. “To put tattoo artists in charge of it themselves is akin to having the fox guard the henhouse. They have neither the appropriate background nor the motivation to evaluate health risks.”

Johnny Hansen, the chairman of the Danish tattoo artists’ guild [Dansk Tatovør Laug], told Berlingske that he was positive about the proposed registration system, but also criticised its voluntary nature. Hansen said that although he anticipates that most tattoo artists will sign up for the registry, it should have been obligatory and overseen by public authorities.

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