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National Environmental Health Association Releases Updated Body Art Model Code

March 12, 2024
Contact Chana Goussetis, NEHA Communications Director

Denver, CO – This week, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) released its newly updated national Body Art Model Code (BAMC). The code is the only comprehensive model code in the country that addresses current body art issues and public health risks. The updated version includes emerging practices related to permanent make-up, single-use equipment, temporary events, and bodily waste regulation, among other topics.

Body art is defined as tattooing, piercing, branding, scarification, and cosmetic tattooing. There are now more than 26,000 body art facilities across the country—a growth rate of about 3% per year in the last decade. In the U.S., more than 4 in 10 people younger than 50 years have at least one tattoo and 1 in 4 have a piercing somewhere other than an earlobe.

Unsafe body art practices, due in part to under-regulation, pose a potential for infection, disease transmission, cross-contamination, scarring, nerve damage, and other complications.

“Despite the growing popularity of body art, regulations and industry standards remain inadequate and fragmented,” said Christl Tate, a NEHA associate director. “Local health departments must develop their own body art regulation programs from the ground up, with few reliable resources to refer to.”

In the U.S. there is no federal law regulating body art or body artists; body art is regulated by state and local jurisdictions.

“With no federal body art regulations, the BAMC can be used by state, tribal, local, and territorial agencies to develop, update, or enhance their own body art codes,” said Tate. “We like to think about the BAMC as a ‘Program in a Box’ that provides everything a jurisdiction needs to stand up a body art inspection program.”

The model code was developed over 2 years through a public-facing, research-based process with two public comment periods and collaboration with 35 experts from public health and the body art industry. The code is ready to be used in any community to adopt and enforce a body art code in their jurisdiction.

The BAMC was first released by NEHA in 1998 and subsequently updated in 2019 and 2024. It is now updated every 3 years. Along with the code, NEHA has also developed job aids, training, and policy statements to support jurisdictions. The updated BAMC Annex, which includes the scientific rationale for the code, will be available this summer.


About the National Environmental Health Association

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) represents more than 7,000 governmental, private, academic, and uniformed services sector environmental public health professionals in the U.S., its territories, and internationally. NEHA is the profession’s strongest advocate for excellence in the practice of environmental health as it delivers on its mission to build, sustain, and empower an effective environmental health workforce.