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Province to ban eyeball tattooing

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TORONTO—Eyeball tattooing and implanting eye jewellery soon will be banned in Ontario after health professionals urged action to prevent the dangerous procedures.

The provincial government has amended a health-care bill before the legislature (Bill 160) to include barring eyeball tattooing and the implantation of eye jewellery under the conjunctiva.

Medical professionals recently asked a legislative committee to ban the practices as they continue to increase in popularity, saying it's difficult to engage in the procedures safely.

Eyeball tattooing, which involves injecting ink into the whites of the eyes, made headlines in September when a 24-year-old alternative model from Ottawa said she allowed someone to dye her right eye purple and then developed major complications.

Catt Gallinger said she lost part of the vision in the swollen, misshapen eye and was facing the prospect of living with irreversible damage.

Ontario Health minister Eric Hoskins said yesterday he is aware of the dramatic details surrounding Gallinger's condition.

Both the opposition Conservatives and NDP gave unanimous consent to add the ban to the health-care bill before the house.

“The Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario came to us very concerned about this issue, that that kind of invasive procedure would be done to an individual's eye in a completely unregulated fashion,” Hoskins said.

“They made the request to the government that we prohibit this procedure unless it's for medical purposes.”

Ophthalmologists do occasionally use tattoo ink for medical purposes, such as to reduce glare or corneal scarring using sterile equipment in an operating room.

Earlier this month, Dr. Kylen McReelis, an ophthalmologist and the chief of surgery at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, spoke to a committee at Queen's Park, urging legislators to take action.

“Ophthalmologists around the world are experiencing increasing numbers of patients with blindness and eye loss because of the increasing popularity of eye tattooing,” he noted.

“The risky act of tattooing is being performed by untrained individuals who have no knowledge of the eye's delicate anatomy.”

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she supports the ban, adding the government has a role to play when it comes to barring practices that can hurt Ontarians.

“Eye tattooing is something that's very dangerous,” she noted.

“It doesn't seem to me there's much of a standard or requirement for skills of folks who might be undertaking that procedure,” Horwath added.

“That leaves the person who wants to get that tattoo quite vulnerable.”

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