extra brain

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A colleague quoted me and made this little sticker to inform clients.

To say the least, Brian knows what he’s talking about. This is great information to know for those of you who don’t already!

Because Brian Skellie Said So

I am not a piercer, but as a microbiologist, I have a few questions about this. If you’re using the autoclave correctly, everything should be killed. Nothing is going to ‘grow back’ after a proper autoclave session. (There are a very few microbes that are resistant to normal autoclave settings, but these are rare and highly controlled in the labs they’re studied in, the chances of them appearing on a average person’s jewelry is extremely low). And I’m not quite sure how ‘protein residues’ could possibly cause a bacterial/fungal/viral infection? Perhaps leftover toxins that are produced by certain microbes (i.e. S. aureus, a common skin microbe, can produce a toxin) could cause damage but it wouldn’t be an actual infection. And the vast majority of those toxin proteins (including the S. aureus toxin) are destroyed by the heat and pressure of the autoclave.

The only one of these that kind of makes sense is prions since as far as I know those are extremely difficult or impossible to decontaminate. But prions (the causative factor of ‘mad cow disease’, among others) are only spread through contaminated brain tissue, so I would think the likelihood of them appearing on a piercing would be extremely low.  

Not that I’m saying buying used body jewelry is a good idea. I personally would never want to buy used jewelry. But the scientific inaccuracies here don’t really inspire confidence in the piercer. If I saw this at a studio I went to get pierced at, I would turn around and walk right back out the door.

Hello microbiologist friend smartsexyscientist :)

These points were reduced from a much more involved conversation in the context of describing why sales of used body jewelry is an untenable business practice, and to discourage professionals from considering their autoclaves infallible. At a piercing studio, you wouldn’t want to have to question if someone had previously worn your jewelry or if it was new and safely handled prior to cleaning and sterilization.

If it is not clean, it can’t be sterilized.

A colleague cherry picked quips to keep it simple for a lay person to understand . As easy as it may be to pick it apart, it is clear that you got the message, and as a person who describes some understanding of steam sterilization, you already understand that an autoclave process should be effective against most pathogens. Prions are one harmful known protein type that are not destroyed by steam sterilization, and require more harsh means for removal from a surface. They are most often spread through contaminated brain and spinal tissue, but also through other kinds of nervous tissue, such as the tongue.

Another part of the problem when it comes to body jewelry is that the autoclave operator most likely does not have a background in clinical microbiology and infection prevention, and may not have optimal equipment to clean and sterilize jewelry. Most of the autoclaves used in North American piercing studios do not have dynamic air removal such as a vacuum or pressure pulsing system. They rely on gravity displacement and can not adequately sterilize hollow, porous or wrapped loads, which results in regrowth.

I do not condone appeal to authority, even when I’m the alleged authority. I am a person very interested in the specifics of “how clean is clean enough,” and to this end continue to study and participate in the related workgroups in the ASTM F04.15 subcommittee on on Material Test Methods.

We’ve been working on the problem of reliable validation for surgical implant reuse for philanthropic purposes for over a decade. For example, pacemakers can be still functional for years after explanted from a deceased individual. The concerns for failure are due to both infectious material (protein, bacterial, fungal and viral) that resists autoclave processes inside crevices and hollow or porous spaces, and endotoxin and pyrogen residues that can cause rejection, even without infection.

Biofilm and denatured proteins that can prevent effective decontamination are known problems with body jewelry. More on this subject here.

References of interest:

ASTM F2847 - 10 Standard Practice for Reporting and Assessment of Residues on Single Use Implants

WK32535 New Practice for Establishing Limit Values for Residues on Single use Implants

WK33439 New Guide for Standard test soils for validation of cleaning methods for reusable medical devices

I support the establishing evidence based standards for decontamination and sterilization of medical device and other surgical implants for reuse, if it can be done safely and consistently. Once that sort of process is standardized in medicine, then it might be applied to body jewelry. This shouldn’t be impossible, and may be forthcoming. A promising note is that there are processes to clean bone and tissue for allograft and implant from exogenous sources, such as cadavers, into patients in need. These sorts of things under clinical investigation may result in the standards we need for reprocessing body jewelry.

Until implants can be safely reused under routine conditions, we should not reprocess previously worn body jewelry for anyone but the original wearer’s own personal reuse.

(Source: sandandglass)

Thanks everyone!
I had a great birthday!


Oh hey, look who’s birthday it is. The Association of Professional Piercers’ new President, Brian Skellie

For those of you who don’t know who Brian Skellie is, he is not only an accomplished body piercer, but he is also an industry leading expert on sterilization and safety. He has been an APP board of directors elected official for the past few years, and has volunteered countless hours of technical and instructional support to the professional piercing industry. 

Brian has done quite a bit to advance the field of body piercing over his career. I won’t say he did it single-handed, but he was the driving force behind Statim cassette autoclaves becoming commonplace in many of the industry’s most well known and respected studios. Statim sterilizers have revolutionized the body piercer’s ability to rapidly sterilize jewelry and instruments without the use of harsh chemicals. Without Brian’s knowledge, passion, and guidance its hard to imagine Statims becoming as wide spread. 

I know a lot of people think of sterilization when they hear the name Brian Skellie, but he is also an accomplished body piercer with some very forward thinking concepts on freehand piercing and needle bevel theory. Sounds a bit dry if you’re not a piercer, but believe me understanding needle bevel theory is really a game changer for anyone using a freehand technique. Brian’s explanation and demonstrations have made a significant impact on the careers of many body piercers, myself included. 

So let’s take a minute to start an unwrapped cycle of gratitude for the world’s smartest body piercer. APP President Brian Skellie. 

Ryan Ouellette, APP outreach


Versatility in piercing techniques: with Brian Skellie, Dana Dinius, Ed Chavarria, and Chris Glunt.

Demonstrating methods with and without clamps and other instruments.


APP member’s meeting

Hey, that’s us!

Double pouching for sterile presentation? ATP use in CS? May 2014 - CS Solutions

Double pouching for sterile presentation? ATP use in CS? May 2014 – CS Solutions

From May 2014 – CS Solutions.

Double pouching for sterile presentation? ATP use in CS? by Ray Taurasi

Q The OR requires that Sterile Processing double peel pouches all items sent to them. They claim this is essential to allow for sterile presentation to the sterile field. I cannot find anything in AAMI or AORN recommendations stating this is necessary. I find it strange that they have no issues…

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Somatic Piercing

A number of years ago, I was asked to respond to an interview by my colleague and friend Nicholas Wolak, owner of Evolved. I found his questions engaging and was pleased to interact for this project.

Nick completed his Masters degree at the Ohio State University in Somatic and Cultural Studies in 2002. His final project, “Somatic Piercing: The Art and Ritual of Body Piercing” portrays his…

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11 Things You Should Know About Piercings

11 Things You Should Know About Piercings

11 Things You Should Know About Piercings was a Huffpost Healthy Living article

It contains some helpful ideas, but overstates some of the figures as fact.

A happy pierced personElayne Angel responds:

This article presented some sound information, but there’s still much more to know. When piercings are performed by a trained professional using sterile equipment and high quality jewelry, and appropriate aftercare is…

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A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science | Compound Interest

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science | Compound Interest

Spotting bad science

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science | Compound Interest.

A brief detour from chemistry, branching out into science in general today. This graphic looks at the different factors that can contribute towards ‘bad’ science – it was inspired by the research I carried out for the recent aluminium chlorohydrate graphic, where many articles linked the compound to causing breast cancer, referencing…

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