PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tattoo parlors are springing up everywhere, but if you get ink in Pennsylvania you’re doing it at your own risk. That’s because parlors and tattoo artists are not licensed or regulated.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan reports that cases of infection and disease are on the rise. And that has some state officials calling for reform.

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Used to be tattoos were for sailors and longshoremen, but now everyday people like Elise Sobeck are finding them absolutely addictive.

“I only wanted one, and obviously, I have a lot more than one,” says Sobeck.

But her four-leaf clover proved unlucky.

“Got an infection, it was disgusting, and I had to keep it covered and everything because it was gross,” Sobeck said of the tattoo on her hand.

As tattoos become more popular, cases of serious infection are on the rise.

Randy Bartosh at Tattoo U in Coraopolis blames untrained tattoo artists he calls scratchers.

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“They’re tattooing in unsanitary conditions,” says Bartosh. “They’ll reuse needles; the needle will sit and be set on top of a countertop, they’ll have beverages within the range of their needles, they’ll have ashtrays.”

Customers can end up with permanent scars or big blotches.

“Considered bloating, and what it is it’s saturation too deep into the skin,” Bartosh said.

That has Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner calling for change.

“Tattoo parlors here in Pennsylvania do not fall under any regulation for licensing and sanitation standards,” Wagner said.

Wagner says he wants parlors licensed and artists to be trained in blood-borne pathogens and first aid as well as to be fined for non-compliance.

“There should be staunch, heavy, heavy fines for anybody that does something like what happened to Elise,” says Bartosh.

Nail salons, hair salons, even barbershops are licensed, but not yet tattoo parlors; but owners like Bartosh welcome regulation to separate the artists from the scratchers.

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