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Body piercing shops still getting into compliance with 2007 Illinois registration law

The revelation this month that a Palatine shop apparently has been performing body piercings for years without proper state registration underscores that it could take more time before the growing industry is largely in compliance with the 2007 law, officials say.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, which enforces the state's Tattoo and Body Piercing Establishment Registration Act, confirmed that Bead World, 8 S. Brockway St., has submitted a registration application and that an initial health inspection has been scheduled to make sure the business' equipment and practices are sterile and safe.

But the state won't fine the business, agency spokeswoman Kelly Jakubek said. Though the law allows fines for up to $1,000 a day for noncompliant piercing and tattoo studios, Jakubek said the department can't fine a body art business without first allowing it to take corrective measures and then holding a hearing.

The agency's main concern is getting business into compliance. Jakubek said that because the law is relatively new — it went into effect in 2007 — "It is considered to be in a transitional time frame and it usually takes several years to bring all facilities into compliance."

"Some body art establishments are unaware of the new law, others are hoping they won't get caught, while others hide from us," Jakubek said via e-mail. "This is an industry that has been in existence for decades without regulation and we acknowledge that complete compliance will take time."

The growing popularity of body piercing also makes enforcement challenging. Businesses that pierce only earlobes are exempt, but studios that pierce tongues, belly buttons, nipples and other body parts — sometimes using so-called micro-dermal anchors that are placed under the skin and attach to jewelry — are springing up to keep pace with the growing demand.

"Piercing is mainstream. There is no question about it," said Bob Jones, who performs body piercing at Insight Studio in Chicago. "I see a wide range of people coming into the studio, from housewives, teachers, executives, doctors, artists, insurance agents and just about every other walk of life."

Jones said that when he started doing body piercing in 1995, there were relatively few piercers working.

"Now, today, in every tattoo studio you have a piercer. Add that to the actual number of tattoo shops, and it's evident that piercing is more popular, as well as tattooing. It seems that new shops are opening up every week," he said.

Even before the state law was put on the books, Jones said his employees were required to take annual training on blood-borne pathogens and infection control training, which has now become standard.

"That's a perfect example how the regulations are helping," he said. "The only people who would ever complain about something like this in the industry are people who don't want to progress or don't think regulations are necessary."

Another Chicago body piercing artist, Micah Greenlay of Metamorph Studios, agreed that industry regulation is an important way to help customers find legitimate, clean and safe body piercers. He called Illinois' law "adequate" without being too restrictive.

Elected officials in some states, however, "might need to pay a little more attention to what they regulate and how they word things," Greenlay said, explaining that some states have "passed laws hastily" that unfairly and unintentionally banned dermal anchors. He said those are a far cry from the more extreme forms of implanted body art that require more invasive techniques more akin to surgery than regular piercings.

In addition to state laws and federal worker protection standards, many body piercing shops in the Chicago area must also comply with local zoning and business licensing laws.

In Palatine, Bead World has been treated by village as a jewelry store, though it does tout piercings on its sign.

Village Manager Reid Ottesen said that, for the village's purposes as it relates to zoning and regulation, the main issue is whether piercing is central or ancillary to the business. The village is investigating and has obtained records from Bead World showing piercing made up 15 percent of its business over the past three months.

The issue came to light last month after Palatine Village Council members rejected a request by a Wheeling couple, Beth and Phil Cisco, to open a tattoo studio in town, saying such a business carries a stigma.

Supporters of the Ciscos said it was unfair that they were rejected after going through all the proper channels of consideration when the bead shop was performing piercings without being properly registered.

Bead World owner Martha Pafralides could not be reached for comment.

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