Q&A on the News

Q: I understand that if you have tattoos you can’t donate blood. I’ve also been told that folks have not been accepted into the military because of tattoos. Is this correct? If so, why?

—Robert Caldwell, Lilburn

A: Potential blood donors are asked to wait 12 months to give blood after receiving a tattoo from a state where tattoo facilities aren't monitored by the FDA, an American Red Cross spokeswoman told Q&A on the News.

Those states include Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health doesn’t monitor tattoo facilities in the state, but counties are empowered to adopt tattoo regulations, under state code 31-40, a Public Health spokeswoman told Q&A on the News in an email. The department provides guidance to the districts and counties, she wrote.

“A tattoo is acceptable if the tattoo was applied by a state-regulated entity using sterile needles and ink that is not reused,” the American Red Cross website (redcrossblood.org) states. “Cosmetic tattoos applied in a licensed establishment in a regulated state using sterile needles and ink that is not reused is acceptable.”

Branches of the armed services have restrictions on the number and placement of tattoos, and new Army regulations limit the number of tattoos on the lower arm and leg, allowing up to four tattoos below the elbows or knees.

Each one must be smaller than the person’s hand.

About 100 potential Army recruits were turned away in El Paso, Texas, early last year because of the restrictions on tattoos and ear gauges.

The branches also have policies banning tattoos that are sexist, extremist, indecent or racist.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).