Cheap Tattoos Come With Free Drug-Resistant Staph Infections

If you’re in the market for a cheap, illegal tattoo, you might want to make sure that you have good health insurance, because your new ink might come with a free drug-resistant staph infection.

A West Rutland [Vermont] couple is facing charges for allegedly giving tattoos that infected a number of people.

Michael C. Mills, 30, whose address was listed as a West Rutland post office box, pleaded innocent Monday in Rutland District Court to three charges of unlicensed tattooing, a misdemeanor. His wife, Tiffany D. Mills, 27, pleaded innocent to a single charge.

The Millses were released on the conditions they stay away from the three people they allegedly tattooed and not purchase, possess or use any tattooing or piercing equipment.

The police tracked the couple down after three of their alleged clients acquired that drug-resistant staph infection you keep hearing so much about.

Tiffany Mills denied having tattooed any of the alleged victims, saying they each borrowed equipment from the Millses to do their own tattoos and she and her husband had MRSA infections as a result, according to affidavits. She said she and her husband only tattoo themselves and family members at no cost.

Right. The article didn’t include the couple’s defense for the unrelated charges of cocaine possession and driving without a license, but we bet someone just “left the cocaine in the car that they were just sitting in without actually driving.”

Cheap, illegal tattoos. No good. That’s our ruling.

Couple denies tattoo charges [Rutland Herald via WSJ Health Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Slothrob says:

    When I lived in Boston, tattooing was illegal in all of Massachusetts, so people would drive up to the border of NH or VT to shady unmarked shops just to get tattoos.

  2. darkened says:

    And the question is would have going to a “legitimate tattoo” parlor made any difference? If the ink contained the bacteria to start with, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

    I think this was just one of those unfortunate bad luck situations. Now if they spread the bacteria by not properly sterilizing the needles. Well, then i hope they get the book thrown at them.

  3. nutrigm says:

    That’s exactly why I don’t have them! Nothing to do with the fact that it hurts or none of that nonsense! ;)

  4. ancientsociety says:

    @nutrigm: It really doesn’t hurt. It slightly burns for the first 2 mins but you get used to it. Honestly, I hate needles/shots but I actually like getting tats.

  5. B says:

    Hey, I live in Rutland, VT. I guess maybe I’ll pass on getting that hello kitty tattoo.

  6. dandd says:

    I think it will be very difficult to prove that the people were exposed to MRSA from the tattooing equipment.

  7. KingTaco23 says:

    If they had gone to a legitimate shop the artist would have been trained in proper sanitation techniques and the infection would never have transmitted. It sounds like they either didn’t use their autoclave correctly or they double-dipped in their ink supply. The ink should be squirted from the bottle into little caps which are discarded when the tattoo is finished. That way you don’t introduce someone’s infection to the bottle.
    And for anyone that’s nervous about getting a tattoo because of a perceived risk of infection I have over 25 tattoos all from licensed shops and have never picked up an infection.

  8. B says:

    @dandd: Fortunately for the prosecutors, all they have to prove is the couple got paid to give tattoos without a license.

  9. swalve says:

    Quit blaming the victim!

  10. CaptainConsumer says:

    What BAD reporting:

    Michael C. Mills, 30, whose address was listed as a West Rutland post office box, pleaded innocent Monday in Rutland District Court to three charges of unlicensed tattooing, a misdemeanor. His wife, Tiffany D. Mills, 27, pleaded innocent to a single charge.

    You CANNOT ever plead INNOCENT. You CANNOT ever be found INNOCENT. You CAN be found, or PLEAD not guilty.

  11. tinfoilsoldier says:

    DARKENED, it would have made all the difference

    Real tattoo parlors put the ink into one time use containers before any skin is broken. The full bottle has been long sealed and put away before any needles get near the skin.

    Legit places also autoclave EVERYTHING, unsealing each piece only when it is needed for the first time.

  12. UpsetPanda says:

    @CaptainConsumer: That’s what I thought…except I only thought this because I watch a lot of Law and Order.

  13. Tragically Hipster was That Girl Hates You says:

    See thats why you go to Yankee (also in Vermont) the only time it is a good thing to smell like a hospital,

  14. nardo218 says:

    Um, duh. You’ll also have to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.

  15. Munsoned says:

    As far as crimes go, “unlicensed tatooing” just sounds pretty funny to me. Not funny to do it or to give people infections while doing it. And yes, the fuzz has to enforce it. It’s just so different from your average crime reported these days…

  16. Witera33it says:

    It’s good to finally have this statement in “print.” I’ve been telling potential tattoo clients this for years. While being frugal is usually a pretty good trait, when it comes to permanent body altering decisions, it might be a good idea to spend a little extra.
    ALL licensed tattoo artists should have completed a course in blood borne pathogens, that is renewed on a regular basis. Their autoclave should be tested monthly, and they should wash their hands frequently.
    Hand washing, in fact, is the single best prevention against MRSA. It doesn’t need to be antibacterial since it’s effective has been waning for years and is the leading theory on the mutation of MRSA to begin with. Effective hand washing requires only hot water and lathering the entire hand including the wrists and the thumbs for three rounds of “row your boat” before rinsing. Use a towel to turn off the spigot and open the door.

  17. chiieddy says:

    The problem is people who are willing to put crap on their body and not willing to pay to get something that isn’t crap.

    Seriously, you’re putting something on you FOR LIFE. If you’re doing this, you should do as much research as you would for any sort of elective medical procedure.

    P.S. @SlothRob: I live in MA and tattooing was legalized about 6 or so years ago. There’s even a convention in Boston. I’ve had two tattoos done by a respectable tattoo shop in Saugus, MA and love my artist’s work. :)

  18. Blueoysterjoe says:

    Could I get my staph infection in the shape of a woman riding a dragon?

  19. swalve says:

    @Witera33it: I agreed with everything up to: “Use a towel to turn off the spigot and open the door.”

    There is no reason to do this in normal, non-operating room environments.

  20. RaRaRad says:

    A cheap tattoo isn’t good and a good tattoo isn’t cheap.

  21. Tragically Hipster was That Girl Hates You says:

    @RaRaRad: to quote some random person “true dat.” Plus all the cheap tats I’ve seen ALL LOOK LIKE CRAP.

  22. crooshjef says:

    “@Witera33it: I agreed with everything up to: “Use a towel to turn off the spigot and open the door.”

    There is no reason to do this in normal, non-operating room environments. “

    I disagree. I think it is essential to take precautions like this. In my body piercing studio, everything is hands free. Infra-red soap dispenser and paper towel dispenser, foot pedal operated sink.

  23. dirtleg says:

    @RaRaRad: Amen brother. A good ink artist and studio is like a good doctor or mechanic. If you find one, hold on to him (or her). I only have one tat and the guy that did it told me much the same thing: There are good tattoos and there are cheap tattoos. But there is no such thing as good, cheap tattoo. I saw sooo many guys in the army pay outrageous amounts of money for the crappiest ink I’ve ever seen. Even with words misspelled. It was usually done when they were drunk and made for some great fun needling them (no pun intended) about it. Some where those idiots are still taking crap for those piece of shit tats.

  24. clevershark says:

    A procedure that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life and which involves putting things into your body is NOT something you want to cut corners on in order to save a couple of bucks.

  25. selianth says:

    My last tattoo was free. Yahoo!! Of course, that’s because my artist friend was apprenticing and needed the experience. We did it in her house but all her equipment was sterilized in the autoclave at her shop and she used the disposable caps for the ink. While it felt weird getting tattooed someplace other than in a licensed shop, I had no doubts about her equipment or inks being clean.

  26. kimsama says:

    @swalve: Ew, no. It is important to do this.

    I decided to never touch the bathroom door after being in the ladies room while someone finished up a big poo and didn’t wash her hands on her way out.

    Yeah, some people are just disgusting, and I don’t want any of that near me.

  27. Witera33it says:

    if you don’t use this precaution you will re-contaminate your hands with the filth of every hand that has touch the spigot before you totally negating the point of washing your hands to begin with. Also the health department here would fail me if I didn’t take this precaution. Cross contamination is how diseases spread. Simple precautions like I mentioned minimize cross contamination.

  28. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @KingTaco23: I was just about to say exactly the same thing. I have about 11 tattoos and I will never just walk into a shop. I only go to see people I have personally met or been given recomendations for. Most of the health risks can be completly removed by using common sense.

    Autoclaveing everything and useing disposable ink cups will remove most bugs. The artist I use now will change gloves just to scratch his nose with his knuckle or use anything not steralized on his tray. He has his own licensed home studio and is very selective of his clients. He only does 1 tat a day but it has to be a minimum 3 hour session. He can afford to be picky he has a 5 month waiting list.