Sleep alert

Normally I go to bed between 2 and 4, and then get up a little after 9. I slept alone a night ago, it wasn't bad, but I didn't really sleep as well as usual. To catch up, now that I have company again, I slept until after one in the afternoon!

We're continuing the server move today, so while waiting for that to happen, I was flipping through some old piles of hatemail and threatmail… I came across this 1997 gem from Joe Christ:

So, last chance, take down the Dickless in Babylon site, or be ready for expensive legal action. It'll cost my household less than a week's pay to get an injunction to shut down your whole site.

Needless to say…

I was also flipping through some old editorials, and wanted to take this opportunity to update one called “Do the Math”.

  • 1.8% of Americans have Hepatitis C, a blood-borne terminal disease with no cure.
  • According to recent studios, tattooed people are nine times more likely to have Hepatitis, implying that something in the range of 15% of tattooed people have it.

After these basic facts, let's assume that one of the following happens:

  • The autoclave is malfunctioning for some reason, or isn't being used properly (for example, overpacking it), or even worse, isn't in use at all.
  • The jewelry you're being given has been handled by staff or customers, potentially exposing it.
  • After piercing you, the piercer touches the sharps container and doesn't change gloves.
  • The autoclaved bags have been improperly handled and contaminated.

There are a thousand other things in a studio that doesn't pay the utmost attention to detail. Let's assume that in a busy studio that isn't careful, you could come into contact with pathogens from the blood of up to fifty people.

0.8550 x 100 = 0.03

Therefore, if you are pierced in a dirty but busy studio, and the numbers I've presented are about right, you have a 99.97% chance of coming in contact with Hepatitis C infected blood… and that doesn't even include the myriad of other diseases out there.

Even if you don't agree with all of my assumptions, a dirty studio acts almost like “compound interest” — the odds just grow exponentially.

Be safe; check your studios for cleanliness! The following tips on picking a good studio are from an article I wrote in 1998:

  • Do they have an autoclave and has it been spore-tested? Ask to SEE current test reult — if they have it, they'll probably proudly show it off. Do not accept excuses like “the gauges tell me all I need to know” (gauges can of course malfunction), “we keep the tests at my mother's house” (yeah, right), or “the strips on the autoclave strips are a good enough indicator” (they're not — those will tell you that a cycle has been run, but don't guarantee sterility).
  • How is jewelry in the display case handled? Neither customers nor staff should be handling it without gloves on — if they do, it could easily get contaminated. The counter-top can also serve as an agent for cross contamination. Think of the following scenario: A customer takes jewelry out of their own infected piercing and places it on the counter. They then examine three rings from the display case, choosing one of them. The others go back in the case. At this point both the jewelry in the case and the counter-top are contaminated. Another customer buys those rings and gets Hepatitis…
  • Also watch the reception and piercing staff — do they touch their own piercings and then touch jewelry, tools, etc.?
  • How much dust, dirt, stains, etc. do you see? Everything should be spotless. If you walk in and things are not perfectly clean, walk right back out again. If there's a layer of dust in the piercing room, you know it has not been cleaned in a while.
  • This might seem silly, but how does the piercer smell? The personal hygeine of the piercer reflects on his professional hygeine.
  • In the piercing room, what is done with old jewelry that gets taken out of people? If you see bins of contaminated jewelry sitting in little containers around the edge of the room, walk right back out again.
  • Do ALL tools (and needles) come out of autoclave bags? What happens with them after they are used? Used needles should be placed in a biohazard container (generally a red or yellow tub) after a single use, and used tools should be placed in a sterilizing fluid (preferably in another room) to keep spores from forming. They need to be scrubbed before re-autoclaving. If used tools are placed on any counter-tops, these counter-tops will become contaminated.
  • Does all jewelry come out of autoclave bags? If not, how is it sterilized? Chemical sterilization is only sufficient if (1) it is done for long enough [generally a minimum of 15 minutes], and (2) the jewelry was previously bulk-sterilized and has not been contaminated in any way (as discussed above).
  • How are these bags of jewelry and tools handled? If the piercer contaminates the outsides of the bags, they MUST switch gloves after opening the bags, otherwise they risk contaminating the tools (and then you) as they take them out.
  • Does the piercer have an adequate concern for and understanding of cross-contamination? As soon as they touch a contaminated (anything that's not sterilized) surface or object, they need to switch their gloves. This is ESPECIALLY important when it comes to the biohazard surface. It's the absolute most dangerous object in the piercing room.
  • If you have the time, sit in the studio for as long as you can and watch how other customers are treated. Let them risk their lives before you risk yours.
  • Finally, remember that anyone can “talk the talk”. Everyone knows exactly what they need to say. The important thing is whether they actually do it. Even if they've answered all your questions right, watch them VERY carefully. It's your life that's at risk. Be paranoid, and don't be afraid to demand a refund and go to a better studio if you're not happy with what you see.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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