Ban on eyeball tattooing heads to governor's desk

Emma Epperly
WNPA News Bureau

Eyeball tattooing is on its way to being declared an illegal practice in Washington state following passage of a House Bill 1856 on Tuesday.
The measure passed the House by a 94-4 margin last month and not heads to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk.
Scleral tattooing — commonly called eyeball tattooing — is the process of scarring or inserting pigment into the human eye, typically the white of the eye. The Sclera is the white outer coating of the eye and extends from the cornea to the optic nerve at the back of the eye.
The process is already banned in Canada.
Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, was the only one to vote against the measure.
Consenting adults should be able to do what they want, Wagoner said.
He pointed to the fact that many dangerous activities are legal — like rock climbing. To be “philosophically consistent,” he said he voted against the measure.
House Bill 1856 would subject violators to a civil penalty determined by the court. The state Department of Licensing could also take disciplinary action against tattoo artists who perform the procedure.
Dr. Aaron Lee, a retina surgeon, testified in support of the bill when it was in committee as a representative of the Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.
The main concern for Lee, which was echoed by legislators, is that someone without the proper medical and surgical training or correct instruments could easily damage the retina. The procedure can cause retinal detachment and infection, which could blind the individual or even result in complete removal of the eye.
“As it’s becoming more popular, we’re starting to see reports of the consequences of these things, not only in the news media, but also in our medical literature,” he said. “I don’t think we should wait to see somebody go blind.”
Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the bill into law, which would go into effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns.
The Legislature is slated to adjourn April 28.