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27 Feb 2003 : Column 464—continued

David Winnick (Walsall, North): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am aware that you and Mr. Speaker are not responsible for the management of business, but I want to bring to your attention the fact that yesterday a large number of Members wanted to speak in the debate. I was one of those who were unfortunate. I have tried on other occasions to speak in debates on Iraq and other Members, too, were not called yesterday who might have wanted to speak previously. Today, business has collapsed at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I realise that we cannot always anticipate what is going to happen, but it seems odd that arrangements cannot be made. Yesterday many Members, including me, could not speak in the debate despite all our efforts, while today we are finishing at 4 pm instead of 6 pm. I am sure that I am not alone in my concern. Is it possible to communicate the concern of some Members about this matter?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): To some extent, the hon. Gentleman has answered his point of order: it is indeed not a matter for the Chair but for the usual channels. I have no doubt that they will have taken note of his comments.



4.1 pm

Ian Stewart (Eccles): I am grateful for the opportunity to present this petition on behalf of myself and my hon. and good Friends, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the Member for Salford (Ms Blears), and the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis). We support a partnership between local authorities, the police service, primary care trusts, the fire service, the Salford Advertiser, the Prestwich Advertiser and, of course, the public in our constituencies in presenting this petition relating to the sale and use of fireworks.

We have received an increasing number of letters from our constituents expressing their growing concern about fireworks. None of us who are in our mature years can remember from our youth anything like the type of fireworks that we see nowadays. They are vastly different. On behalf of the public, the partnership calls for better restrictions on the type and use of fireworks. It is concerned about the licensing and registration of the sale of fireworks to the public and wants better regulation of the importation and distribution of fireworks.

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The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

4.4 pm

Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton): My petition is on the same subject, so I shall not reiterate the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Ian Stewart). I have previously handed in 60,000 signatures to No. 10 Downing street. The petitions are timely as tomorrow there will be a Second Reading debate on a private Member's Bill on fireworks.

I take this opportunity to thank the Manchester Evening News, the Middleton Guardian, the Heywood Advertiser and the Rochdale Observer for their help and support.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

27 Feb 2003 : Column 466

Body Piercing

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Jim Murphy.]

4.5 pm

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley): Daniel Hindle was a healthy, active teenager with a passion for music. He attended Sheffield college, studying media, English and information technology. He was a skilful guitarist and, by last summer, he had formed his own band, which had already started playing gigs and was in demand for further performances.

Daniel had a girlfriend and, last October, they decided that they would get a piercing together. They went to a popular studio in Sheffield, where his girlfriend had her eyebrow pierced and Dan had his lip pierced. That turned out to be the catalyst for the nightmare that was to ensue. A few days after the piercing, he became ill and slowly got worse. He was admitted to hospital and subsequently into the coronary care unit. He was infected by septicaemia, or blood poisoning, which attacked his major organs and left him too weak to fight the infection. A few days before Christmas, on 21 December, Daniel lost his fight for life. He was 17 years old.

Daniel and his girlfriend did what many teenagers do; they decided to get a piercing—the sort of thing that ordinary teenagers do. Tragically, Daniel was not an ordinary teenager. He had been born with a heart defect called tricuspid atresia—a condition that had necessitated two life-saving operations when he was younger. Both operations were 100 per cent. successful, and Daniel had grown up normally with an excellent quality of life.

Daniel was not aware that for him, piercing could pose a serious health risk. His mother, Christina Anderson, believes that if he had been aware of the risk, he probably would not have had it done. Unfortunately, nobody drew that possibility to his attention before or during his visit to the piercing studio.

There is no suggestion that the studio did anything wrong. It was not ignoring Government regulations. Astonishingly, there are no regulations for body piercers in Sheffield. Local authorities in London have powers to control ear piercing and cosmetic body piercing businesses by licensing, using provisions in the London Local Authorities Act 1991, or by registration and byelaws, using provisions in the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1981. The majority of London local authorities have adopted licensing powers. Local authorities outside London have powers to register and make byelaws for ear piercing businesses under the provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, but not for cosmetic body piercing businesses.

Sheffield city council's website contains information about body piercing, stating that it does not require registration. It provides information, however, on how to register on a voluntary basis with the health protection service, which offers that service. Those who register with the authority receive a premises inspection to ensure that appropriate standards are being achieved and a certificate stating that the premises and practices are suitable and sufficient.

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Sheffield's voluntary code of practice aims to

That includes that body piercing shall not be undertaken on any person under the age of 16 unless parental consent is given, and an expectation that proof of age will be requested. It advises that the client's medical history should be discussed and draws attention to particular conditions that should lead a client to consult a general practitioner before proceeding. Those include heart disease, major infections, allergies and skin complaints. That is good advice, but registration is voluntary. No statutory requirement exists to find out how old someone is before piercing them, and no law exists stopping a child under 16 from being pierced. No compulsion exists to find out whether a customer, such as Daniel, has a heart defect.

The Government have stated on a number of occasions that they believe that primary legislation should be introduced to give local authorities outside London powers to regulate the hygiene and cleanliness of cosmetic body piercing businesses when parliamentary time allows. I am aware that that issue was raised recently in the Local Government Bill Committee. I have also spoken to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions urging him to seek to amend the Bill if at all possible to introduce this provision. Parliament needs to act now. Daniel's death is already one death too many.

Today, I am not just asking for legislation to be changed. I want to raise awareness of the health risks of body piercing and I want the Department of Health to consider what it can do to raise awareness. I understand from previous parliamentary answers that the Department does not have information on the number of people who seek medical help as a result of body piercing. In answer to my written parliamentary question in January, the Minister stated that the Department was not aware of any research into the risks of body piercing for individuals with congenital heart disease, although there have been a small number of published case reports from abroad of endocarditis in individuals with congenital heart disease following skin piercing.

That is not the only area of medical risk, however. A search of the internet has revealed the following information. Dr. Junaid Hanif of Heath hospital in Cardiff carried out a study of body piercing last year. He discovered that

Writing in the August 2002 issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, Drs. Akhondi and Rahimi of the Mercer university school of medicine in Georgia reported the case of one 25-year-old man who became seriously ill soon after having his tongue pierced. The man had a heart defect, and blood tests revealed that his heart was infected with a type of mouth bacteria, and the stud of the piercing also tested positive for the presence of the same bacteria. Thankfully, that young man survived after a period in hospital.

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Almost as common and potentially far more serious than jewellery allergies are infections, which result in redness, swelling, tenderness, pain and, often, swelling of nearby glands. When sterile techniques are not used, bacteria and viruses can be introduced into the bloodstream, including the hepatitis B virus that can cause chronic hepatitis and liver cancer, and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In people born with heart valve disorders, bacterial endocarditis, a potentially deadly infection of the heart, can result if they fail to take preventive antibiotics. Piercing the nose can result in a staphylococcal infection and piercing the cartilaginous part of the ear, which has a very poor blood supply, can result in an infection necessitating surgery and can result in permanent deformity. Even tetanus is a risk in people who have not been immunised in the past 10 years.

In an article in the Student British Medical Journal last year, Jamie Wilson of Leeds said:

More than half the students had piercings outside the traditional domain of the earlobe, and 29 per cent. of women had a navel ring or belly bar. Complications were most likely for nipple, navel and genital piercings, and bleeding and bacterial infection were the most common ailments. Piercings were most frequently permanently removed from the nose, tongue, eyebrow and male nipple. In September 2000, a woman with 118 piercings, including six lip rings and 11 belly bars, died from bacterial septicaemia. She refused to seek medical attention, believing she could offset any infections with saline swabs.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health contacted me stating that it, too, is calling for stricter licensing controls on body piercers in response to concern about health risks. It has issued a set of recommendations for consumers designed to inform and educate the public about the possible health implications of skin piercing treatments ranging from body art and tattooing to electrolysis and acupuncture. The institute echoes my concerns that there is no control over who can set up in business as a body piercer, and there are certainly no recognised standards for new practitioners. It also calls for any piercing below the neck to be made illegal for under 16-year-olds.

Body piercing has become much more fashionable in the past few years, with many teenagers thinking nothing of going out and getting a piercing done. Daniel Hindle did that and a life was cut short. Given the concerns and the possible medical risks that are already known, will the Minister's Department consider commissioning further research on the risks of body piercing, especially if there is an underlying heart condition? The Department of Health is aware that a small study in the United States stated that physicians should advise patients with heart conditions against piercing, but that if the person decided to go ahead, antibiotics should be taken, which is usually the case for dental or surgical procedures. Further research is needed to understand the risks and to ensure that proper advice is given.

Daniel's death has devastated his mother, his family, his friends and the whole college community at Norton in Sheffield. A website has been set up to raise awareness

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and to commemorate his life at I am not against body piercing; I am against ignorance about the effects that such piercings can have. No other young person should lose his life in that way. In spite of her grief, Christina Anderson, Daniel's mother, has dedicated herself to preventing that from happening. Now it is the turn of the Government to act.

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