The increasing popularity of body piercings has prompted James Reilly to warn about the health risks as his department creates guidelines for an unreg-ulated industry.
The health minister admitted that while the number of premises offering piercings had greatly increased, there was still no legislation specifically regulating the trade. Businesses must only comply with the general public health and safety legislation that applies to any business, though they could be examined by a medical officer or environmental health officer if there was a suspected case of an infectious disease or a probable source of infection.
“The risks associated with body piercing can range from acute infection to allergic reactions,” he said. “There is also a risk of hepatitis B and C and HIV with all piercing. Oral piercings pose particular risks which include tooth damage, airway obstruction, gum swelling, and injury.”
Dr Reilly said his department is reviewing the policy around body piercing with the priority to develop “good practice” guidelines for those working in the industry rather than legislation. “The main objective of the guidelines is to encourage best hygiene practice by body piercers,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Irish Dental Association said its members had seen an increase in the number of young patients presenting with issues relating to their oral piercings between August and December each year.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests this may be due to young people attending music festivals such as Oxegen, going on holiday with their friends, and also students preparing to start college,” it said.
Dr Sean Malone, president of the association, said the bottom line was that anyone who gets an oral piercing will damage their oral health and that in many cases that damage will be irreversible.
It said young people with heart murmurs could be especially at risk because when a tongue or lip is pierced, lots of bacteria can enter the mouth, and in some circumstances this leads to infective endocarditis. That occurs when the bacteria attach to an abnormal section of a young person’s heart, leading to serious illness.
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