Despite Law Change, Not Many Floridians With New Tattoos Are Rushing To Give Blood

By on August 29th, 2013
blood donation

Caitlin Sinett / WUFT News

Alex Jaber, a 21-year-old Florida State University student, donates blood at the LifeSouth Community Center in Gainesville on Thursday. Jennifer Sealey, the technician, takes the blood, which will eventually go to a hospital.

There are many reasons why people cannot give blood, but this year in Florida, getting a tattoo is not one of them.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers announced in April that if you received a tattoo in Florida from a regulated tattoo facility after Jan. 1, you are eligible to donate blood.

The announcement, though, has not sparked a large turnout increase.

In the few states that don’t regulate facilities, blood centers usually make donors wait a year after they get tattooed.

That is no longer the case in Florida. The state legislature rewrote the law in 2012 to require tattoo artists and establishments to be licensed, and the yearlong deferral was eliminated in January.

Galen Unold, LifeSouth’s director of recruitment and retention, said the turnout hasn’t increased significantly because it has only been five months since the April announcement.

And people who got a tattoo before Jan. 1 still have to wait 12 months.

“It’s a very small sample size,” he said.

Allowing those with tattoos from 2013 to donate is based more on health than social acceptance, Unold said.

A major risk factor for contracting hepatitis B and C is tattooing. Hepatitis is spread through blood-to-blood contact, and when needles are shared, the virus can spread. This was a main reason blood centers had the waiting period.

“When you’re passing the epidermis, it’s a minor medical procedure,” said Keith Bucella, owner of Addiction Tattoo and Piercing.

Prior to the new law, if a person donated blood and had acquired a disease from getting a tattoo, the blood center would spend time and money before discovering the blood was contaminated and could not be used.

Bucella said a lot of cases of Staph infections, MRSA and scar tissue problems occurred.

Health departments, instead of doctors, now perform tattoo parlor inspections.

Anthony Dennis, environmental health director for the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, said the number of licensed tattoo parlors in Gainesville has increased from 10 to 12 in 2013.

“With the artist’s license, they have to take a bloodborne pathogens class,” he said.

The health department checks building and equipment sanitation, and inspectors look at the actual procedures to make sure everything is done properly and meets state requirements, Dennis said.

Other people who are not eligible to donate blood in the U.S. include homosexual men, people with HIV or AIDS, pregnant women and people who have spent long periods of time in countries where mad cow disease is found.

Kristen Stancil, communications program manager of American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region, disagrees with one of the current deferral policies.

“As far as gay men donating,” she said, “there is a lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men. This is a policy set by the Food and Drug Administration that the American Red Cross is required to follow.

“However, we believe the lifetime deferral is unwarranted and donor deferral criteria should be modified.”

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