Local piercer says lack of standards the problem

A well-known Calgary piercer, Dan Marshall of Heroes and Villains, says until the province cracks down on the quality of jewelry used by Alberta piercers, clients will continue suffering the ill-effects.

“Half of the junk that I take out of people has gaps that allow for bacteria growth and rough or unfinished edges from tool marks,” says Marshall.

“It’s not the client’s fault. There’s just a general lack of knowledge surrounding the quality of jewelry clients should be asking for, combined with a lack of standards as to what shops should ship in,” says Marshall.

Current Alberta health standard regulations focus on the cleanliness of shops and tools, but Marshall has been pushing for health standards to target not only how jewelry is sanitized and handled, but also the jewelry itself.

According to Marshall, piercing shops are hesitant to bring in the best jewelry because of the high cost associated with quality products, such as Anatometal jewelry, which is specially made with implant grade materials and professionally polished to ensure there are no rough edges.

Implant grade materials come at a much higher cost than what Marshall calls “cheaper acrylic” or the products described as “surgical steel.” He says business owners usually can’t “afford to eat the cost.”

Although a portion of clients do not experience negative reactions to sub-par jewelry, Marshall contends those that do can face reoccurring problems and irreversible scarring.

Piercing enthusiast Jen Camelon, who has “more piercings than she can count,” has had upsetting experiences as a result of using cheap jewelry.

“My tongue piercing, which was over 10 years old, had been irritating the roof of my mouth the entire time. Once Dan changed out the plastic bead, my piercing was happy.”

Marshall says he has tried to get the body jewelry standards used in licensed shops on the province’s radar for years. But he describes his discussions with Alberta Health Services as a slow process.

“I’ve had some great conversations, and there are some inspectors I’ve been chatting with for years — but those who make the decisions don’t have this on the radar. It’s apparently never the ‘right time’ for them,” he says.

The Calgary Journal requested an interview with Alberta Health Services. A spokesperson with AHS, who insisted on anonymity, stated that any suggested changes for the standard piercing shop health regulations are suited for discussion with the Ministry of Health. In the meantime, the provincial government will continue to investigate shops using the existing standards.

As a short-term solution, Marshall encourages clients to do their homework, know their rights and ask their body piercer questions about their jewelry.

vpocza@cjournal.ca