The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its first ever guidelines on minors getting tattoos and piercings, recommending teens and their parents research possible heath effects of body modification before facing the needle.
Pennsylvania allows minors under 18 to get tattoos or piercings only with the consent and presence of a parent or guardian. But the commonwealth has no laws when it comes to licensing and regulating body modification artists and parlors.
"I do think it's a little bit surprising that the Department of Health isn't mandating that there are certain practices in place or investigating places offering these services," said Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh pediatrician Cherie Priya Dahr.
Some cities in Pennsylvania, such as Philadelphia, have licensing rules for artists and parlors within their jurisdiction. Pittsburgh does not.
Despite the lack of solidified guidelines, Dahr said she believes most tattoo and piercing parlors in Pennsylvania adhere to strict legal and safety protocols through self-regulation.
"I myself have actually called pretending to be a teenager just to see what people say, and I was pleasantly surprised here in Pittsburgh," she said. "I called four or five places when I first moved here and all of them said, 'well if you're not 18, then you can't come in without your parent present.'"
Dahr echoed the AAP's report by saying the biggest risk from tattoos and piercings comes from infection. Hepatitis can spread from improperly cleaned tools, and a weakened immune system due to illness or medication can increase the risk of infection.
However, the AAP said the rate of complication from a tattoo or piercing is unknown, but believed to be rare.