ModBlog News of the Week: December 9th, 2011

Hey there ModBloggers! It’s the last post of the week, so that means it’s time for the news. This week was pretty light in terms of articles. I did get some great submissions, however they were all older links. But that’s OK! I love hearing from you guys and gals, especially when you’ve got links to news stories. So keep sending those e-mails my way.

Now as I said before, this week is going to be pretty short in terms of actual news.  So let’s get right to it.

We’re starting off with a birthday announcement.  As of yesterday, the electric tattoo machine is 120 years old!  Now, that’s just going by the day the first patent was issued, but it’s still a pretty big milestone, especially with how much of an impact that little machine has had on the vast majority of ModBlog readers.

No longer confined to the bodies of sailors or sideshow freaks, tattoos have entered America’s cultural mainstream, offering consenting adults the chance to adorn themselves with a permanent mark of rebellion, remembrance, or just plain bad taste. And the electric tattoo machine, originally patented on this day in 1891 by the legendary New York City tattooist and inventor Samuel F. O’Reilly, made it all possible.

Based on the design for Thomas Edison’s autographic printer, which was essentially a motorized engraving tool, O’Reilly’s invention sped up the process of tattooing while vastly improving the quality of the final product. Prior to his innovation, tattoos were done by hand, usually with a set of needles affixed to a wooden handle. It was slow-going work for even the most skilled practitioner. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, by contrast, O’Reilly reportedly inked upwards of 130 naval reservists in a single day from his small shop at 11 Chatham Square, located at the southern end of New York’s famous Bowery.

What’s really amazing is how little things have changed since the first machine.  Granted that’s a rotary design with what looks like a permanent needle, but you can see how we got the machines of today from this one here.

Now this story makes me really happy.  Although when I first read the headline I thought it was a joke.  The Tri-City chapter of the Red Cross has lifted it’s 1 year waiting period for donating blood after getting tattooed.  So to celebrate, they’re having a tattoo fundraising drive.

The Tri-City chapter of the American Red Cross is raising a few eyebrows by offering a selected tattoo or body piercing from Monarch Tattoos as part of its “12 Days of Giving” blood donation campaign.  Lisa Gallegos, territory representative in Richland, said she thought the gift was a creative way to let people know about a change to state law this year that eliminates the one-year waiting period before people who get tattoos are allowed to give blood, as long as they get inked at a state-licensed shop.  “I know it sounds strange that we’re doing it, but with the law changing, we thought it would be a good way to get the message out to the public that they can donate,” she said.  The “12 Days of Giving” campaign is designed to entice Tri-Citians to donate blood during the holidays by offering incentives worth at least $25.  The goal is to collect 750 units of blood. Last year’s campaign resulted in more than 500 units being donated, Gallegos said.  And convincing people to donate is critical. Blood and platelet supplies have been low all year, possibly because the uncertain economy has led to fewer businesses having blood drives, she said.

Eligible donors must be over 17, weigh at least 110 pounds and be healthy. For people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, that means being treated for the disease and having blood glucose levels under control.  Everyone who makes an appointment and shows up to donate will get the gift, but an appointment is required and space is limited, Gallegos said.  For example, everyone who makes an appointment for Friday and comes to donate will get a Z Place Salon and Spa package, sponsored by Kadlec Regional Medical Center.  The tattoo or piercing is being offered to people who make appointments to donate Saturday.

As someone who has been turned down to donate blood because of similar rules, it’s great to finally see archaic rules being updated to reflect today’s society.

And finally, for your weekend reading, a book review of Carl Zimmer’s book, “Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science-Obsessed”.

Zimmer groups the images by discipline: physics, chemistry, natural history, neuroscience, and so on. The tattoos range from dainty anklets to dramatic full backpieces and sleeves. Zimmer is at his best when he walks us through a large, complicated tattoo with many elements. He describes an “ecological allegory” adorning the hip, side, and back of Maureen Drinkard, who wrote her PhD thesis on the bogs of Ohio. He tells us about the bog ecosystem, then describes the cardinal flower on her ribcage, the skunk cabbage that blooms beneath on her hip, the dragonfly she chose as a reminder to be strong and ferocious, and rat-tailed maggot she considers her future. The “ick” reaction some might have to the unromantic rat-tailed maggot is tempered by the “rainbow sheen” it gives off when plucked from the slimy bog and held in the sunlight. Science tattoos are almost always ultimately about beauty.

The review goes nicely with the article from last week that had a number of photos of science-related tattoos.

And that’s it for the week.  I told you it was going to be a short week.  Have a great weekend and make sure you all stay safe when plowing through the malls to finish up (or start) your christmas shopping.

8 thoughts on “ModBlog News of the Week: December 9th, 2011

  1. The deferral period post-tattooing for donating blood isn’t archaic at all, it’s realistic. HIV transmission through tattoos is very unlikely, but Hep C is a phenomenally robust virus. With the increasing uptake of nucleic acid testing, the window period for detection of HIV, hep B & C has been reduced, but there is still an window where false negatives will present. On top of that, the risk of bacterial contamination is significant, due to the inks being non-sterile, and the fact that you end up with what is basically a big old abrasion. In most countries the tattoo industry is unregulated, so while the vast majority of studios practice correct sterilisation & cross-contamination control, there are still cowboys and scratchers out there. I’ve had to explain to kids wanting to donate blood that just because their friend waved a lighter flame over the sewing needle they shoved through their ear, it is NOT sterile. It’s the nature of the beast that one must regulate down to the lowest common denominator. It’s a pain in the arse, but that’s the reality of the situation.

    I’ve worked in more than one blood service, and had to explain this to countless people who think that we’re discriminating unfairly. The nature of blood collection is discriminitory. You must discriminate against people with the common cold too, it’s not personal, but the reality is that healthy people don’t receive blood, sick people do, and it’s just not worth taxing an immune system that is more often than not already compromised.

  2. But, in my country, they discriminate between piercings (not allowed to give blood for 6 months, no exceptions) and earrings done with a studex system/piercing gun (totally allowed, no problem). How would you explain that?

  3. I agree with both SillyKiwiMan and Stormchaser.

    I haven’t been able to donate blood since I was 17 due to a year-long wait regulation in Florida. While I understand their reasoning behind it, aren’t all of those things tested for each time after donating?

  4. There are a number of people working in transfusion services of various flavour who are disgusted by the use of re-usable guns, and horrified that there is no appropriate deferral in place for this. With luck, this will change in the future. The guidelines for selection of blood donors are not decided upon by people with an understanding of modification practice. This is changing with the “mainstreaming” of mods, and better technology is helping.

    Re. Tobias, donations are screened. The problem is (I’ll use HIV as an example) that there is a window period, where you have the disease, but your immune system has not mounted a response that can be easily measured. Nucleic acid testing has reduced the window period significantly, but ironically enough, when one first contracts HIV, often the only symptoms are little more than a mild cold-like sniffle. This is when the viral load is massively high (as there has been no immune response to fight anything) and you are at greatest risk of infecting others. This is why there is a deferral period, so that antibody screening or nucleic acid testing will actually have something to “look for”. On top of all that, you can’t test for the common cold, but it can certainly kill an immune-compromised patient, it’s not practical to screen all blood for bactremia (platelets are always microbio screened pre-transfustion).

    Where I work, a freehanded, single use needle piercing does not stop one donating. The plasma part of the blood (so either the red-cells are discarded, or there is the option of a plasmapheresis donation) can be used, as it is fractionated, and any bacteria will not survive. This is a 4 month deferral to plasma, but may come down under review. What it amounts to is that you have an open wound. All wounds have an associated deferral regardless of whether they are a piercing or a stubbed toe. Clamped piercings result in a 6 month deferral, as the clamps are re-used. Sure, most places autoclave properly, but as in my earlier post, we all know that there are places that don’t. HIV isn’t the concern as much as hep C is. Tattoos result in 6 months, due to the bacteriological risk, but mostly because the barrels of the machines are re-used.

    When I screen a potential donor, or indeed when I donate myself, the first and last questions I consider are: “would I be happy for this donation to go to my wife if she needed it”. After that, it becomes easy. None of the deferrals are personal, they’re practical, and if someone manages to create some magic bullet test for “everything”, then believe me, transfusion services the world over will be jumping for joy.

    Please don’t let the fact that you have mods put you off donating blood. The guidelines vary from country to country (don’t even get me started on the mess that is the US) but the need constantly out-strips the supply, and try becoming a platelet donor if you really want to help the sickest of the sick.

    Should anyone want info, insofar as I can, I’ll tell you whatever I know.

  5. Oh, and 12 month deferral periods were justified before the advent of nuclaic acid testing. Previously, the wait was for the immune system to create antibodies, that were then assayed. NAT screening does not look for antibodies, it looks for the RNA of the virus itself. It’s very clever, and not exactly new, but it needs a comprehensive validation process to ensure that there are no false negatives sneaking through. Some services are behind the times technologically. It does not make what they are doing wrong, it just means they are working with the gear that they have available.

    There are 12 month deferrals for a number of things that at first glance seem over-zealous. They are not. No service turns away donors unless they have to, as the need is overwhelming, and every donor is saving lives. We’re in the business of helping people, not turning them away just “because”.

    Re. Kat, thanks! I neglected to thank you in my last rant.

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