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March 11, 1974

Ear Piercing and Hepatitis: Nonsterile Instruments for Ear Piercing and the Subsequent Onset of Viral Hepatitis

Author Affiliations

From the Jefferson County Health Department, Lakewood, Colo (Dr. Johnson), and the Seattle-King County Health Department, Seattle.

JAMA. 1974;227(10):1165. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230230041022

IN February 1973, the mother of a girl who had her ear lobes pierced in a jewelery store complained that the jeweler had used soiled instruments. This was investigated, and the jeweler was found to be using bloodstained instruments. He reported that the instruments were soaked in a 70% alcohol solution between procedures. He stated that he had done "many hundreds" without incident. However, 70% alcohol solutions do not destroy hepatitis virus.

To evaluate the possibility of transmission of viral hepatitis by inadequately sterilized, earlobe-piercing instruments, case reports of viral hepatitis were examined for clues.

A review of 702 cases of viral hepatitis reported in Seattle and King County in 1972 disclosed that 48 cases had occurred in women 12 to 23 years of age who had no known exposure to sources of viral hepatitis. Each of these 48 women was interviewed by telephone to determine if her earlobes had