Watch Wales this Week, Scratching the Surface, online here:
DIY home tattooists using kit bought online for a few pounds are posing serious health risks to people looking for bargain body art in Wales.
A Wales This Week investigation reveals shocking details of the so called “scratchers” or “kitchen sink inkers” working at home.
It’s illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18, and without being registered with the local authority. Reputable high street studios, who pay thousands of pounds a year to practise their art, are hitting out at the scratchers giving the trade a bad name.
There are 296 registered tattoo studios across Wales - that’s a 77% increase on five years ago. The number of illegal scratchers is also rising fast. Helen Roberts, who went to a scratcher, said:
“Basically every council estate, on every street, has got somebody who can get their hands on a tattoo gun or is more than willing to tattoo someone and I’ve seen some horrific tattoos on children - and I mean kids.”
Environmental Health Officers find it hard to track them down as they’re under the radar at home. But local councils are closing in on them, using infectious diseases legislation which enables them to raid premises, seize equipment and shut down illegal businesses.
Julie Barratt, Director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:
“It’s very difficult to find these people, sometimes you’ll get the customer complaining about the tattoo they’ve had, generally about quality rather than on health grounds, secondly these people present at their GP with a skin disease or else an infection that they’ve got from the tattoo or you can look at social networking sites where people are talking about tattoos they’ve had and where they’ve had them”.
Wales This Week bought a home tattoo kit online for £27.99. It’s not illegal to buy or sell them but it is against the law to charge for their use at home.
Wayne Withers, a registered tattoo artist from Mountain Ash in the Rhondda Valleys, condemned the quality of the equipment:
“These needles will just chew your skin up, they’re rubbish. You can see from the sort of money that people are spending this is not serious equipment, in fact, I’d even go as far as saying this equipment’s dangerous in the hands of people who haven’t been trained.”
You can see shocking pictures of scratchers premises raided by Welsh councils and hear from victims of scratchers as well as registered tattoo artists on Wales This Week tonight at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales.
To find out how many registered tattoo studios there are in your area and how many illegal tattooists or "scratchers" homes have been raided, see our exclusive survey at the Wales This Week facebook page.