Blood Banks Turning
Away Tattooed And
Pierced Donors
By David Nodwell
The Canadian Press

TORONTO - The eye catching tattoos and body piercings that flash from the flesh of the fashionable are now attracting the attention of Canada's blood banks.
The agency that manages the country's blood supply is so concerned about the threat of tainted blood, it is turning away donors whose body art is less than a year old.
"It's one of the things we do as a precaution," said Bill Dickson, of Canadian Blood Services.
"In most cases tattooing and piercing is perfectly safe. But if it's not done in a reputable location there is a chance (people) could contract hepatitis C or another communicable disease."
In the last year, blood banks have turned away four out of every 100 donors because of tattoos; one in every 100 because of piercing.
But mobile clinics at schools and universities refuse donors at twice that rate, largely because those who present themselves are so often pierced or tattooed.
"Everywhere you look you see a young person with tattooing or piercing," said Dickson.
That presents a problem for blood banks, which are determined to get young people to roll up their sleeves as they try to combat a desperate shortage of blood products.
"We're trying to focus a lot of our efforts on young people," said Dickson.
"We have a TV ad aimed specifically at those who are not even old enough to donate yet. It's to get the message out to them and spur their interest."
Those who bear the needle's prick in the name of art say they should be able to bear their arms in the call for blood.
Paul Ford, a Toronto tattoo artist, has body art that covers about 30 per cent of his body, winding up his arms, around his neck and up onto his face.
"It's very addictive," said Ford.
Since his first tattoo at 17, he's had at least one more tattoo every year since -- making him ineligible to give blood his entire life.
"Anybody who gets one will always get two. Anybody who gets two gets three."
Ford said the stereotypical image of dingy, late-night tattoo parlors might be partly to blame for the blood agency's caution. He acknowledges that "unprofessionalism" still exists in the industry but said that shouldn't prevent all tattoo-bearers from donating.
"A system that's begging for blood can't be too picky," he said. "Just get the blood in the door. Then check it before you put the blood into a person."
At a blood donor clinic in Toronto, Alex Morton, 22, was giving blood despite her single tattoo, because her body has had more than a year to recover.
She allowed a friend to tattoo her at the age of 16 because it only cost her $20.
"I'm never getting another," said Morton, lifting her leg onto the table to display the pink cartoon rabbit on her ankle.
Those determined to get body art and give blood in the same year, have only one painful alternative -- branding.
Canadian Blood Services has no policy against this emerging form of body art, in which patterns are burned into the skin with hot metal.
But it's not for everyone.
"I'm not racing out to get it done," said Dickson. "I'm not pierced, nor am I tattooed. Those two are scary enough for me."
Here are a few guidelines regarding who can and cannot donate: * Age: donors must be between 17 and 70 years of age.
* Health: donors must be rested and feeling well, and pass a hemoglobin test done at the clinic.
* Size: with exceptions, donors must be at least 142 cm (4 feet 8 inches) tall and weigh at least 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
* Recovery periods:
After a visit to the dentist: 72 hours.
After a pregnancy: six months.
After visiting countries with high malaria: six months.
After close contact with hepatitis: one year.
After acupuncture or electrolysis: one year.
After tattoos or piercing: one year.
After a cold, flu, or sore throat: full recovery.
After immunization shots: variable.