For some, the pain of getting a tattoo didn't end when the needle stopped. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says contaminated tattoo ink caused at least twenty-two skin infections in four states last year. The CDC says the ink manufacturer did not use sterile water to dilute the ink, and then tattoo parlors unknowingly infected their clients.
At Spaded and Jaded Tattoo Company in Tulsa, owners Pierre Vendredi and John Black say they try to be as safe as possible so this doesn't happen.
"It was just bumps all over the skin where the ink was applied. It didn't hurt, it didn't itch, it was just bumps," Bill Herring said.
Herring lives in upstate New York. He's one of the folks infected by the contaminated ink at a tattoo parlor, but Bill isn't just a client; he also owns the tattoo shop that unknowingly infected 19 other people because a dangerous bacteria resistant to antibiotics
“I know many of these people by name, and I know what they're going through because I had it myself,” Herring said.
The Centers for Disease Control says the ink company at the center of these infections likely watered down the ink, but the water was filled with bacteria.
“Ultimately, when you're diluting inks, you're putting that water into the person’s skin,” Vendredi told FOX23.
Health experts are advising ink makers and tattoo artists to use sterile water not tap or distilled water in the future. Black says someone thinking about getting a tattoo needs to start asking questions about what goes into their ink.
“It's not really a question clients ask, they're kind of blind to the behind scenes stuff that's why they should do a lot of research on the tattoo artist and the tattoo shop they use,” Black said.
Spaded and Jaded says they'll now start using sterile water instead of distilled water to be extra sure their clients are as safe as possible.
Tattoo inks are not regulated by the FDA because they're considered cosmetic. The Oklahoma Department of Health does conduct inspections of tattoo parlors, to get a copy of an inspection, call their central office at 1-800-522-0203
These victims could get a payday for their infections. A class action lawsuit is pending against the ink maker, Catfish Carl's Realistic Washes.