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Piercing politics

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Once again, health authorities are slicing up the proposed legislation that would regulate body piercing in Florida.

Body-art studios continue to pop up around downtown and across the state. Yet virtually no guidelines protect those pierced -- or those doing the piercing -- from unsafe conditions and the potential spread of diseases.

House Bill 69, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Valdes, R-Miami, would change that. The bill was slated for a quick vote in the state House before being sent to the Senate, where it had languished during legislative sessions in 1996 and 1997 `"The Hole Truth," July 3`.

But when the Florida Legislature reconvenes on March 1, Valdes now plans to pull the bill from House consideration. That's because state health authorities want to make changes that will incorporate guidelines included in model regulations passed last June by the National Environmental Health Association. Those guidelines were authored by Paul R. Fell, an environmental-health official in Volusia County.

Fell's regulations would apply to all forms of body art. As envisioned, the revised legislation would require piercers to practice infection control through the use of sterilization equipment and other procedures. It also would spell out new standards for the training of piercing artists, as well as sanitation and record-keeping requirements for piercing salons.

The new proposal would not include everything suggested by Fell. But "it will allow us to do most of what he wants," says Amy Jones, general counsel with the Florida Department of Health.

Meanwhile, Fern Park tattoo artist "Sailor Bill" Johnson, president of the Florida Professional Tattoo Guild, is withholding his group's support for Valdes' reworked measure until he sees it in writing. The tattoo group rose in opposition to Valdes' bill in 1996 for fear that it would affect tattooists too; this one, apparently, does not.

"It depends on how it's worded," Johnson says. "If he'd changed it to read properly, it would have been law two years ago."


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