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[Health] Earrings and customers IMPORTANT

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Earrings can be a potential source of a number of
Blood Borne Pathogen contamination. For infection control reasons,
please be aware that Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can live on surfaces
for extended periods of time. HIV can also theoretically be spread if
an infected person accidentally sticks themselves while trying on the
earring and someone immediately following does the same. These
diseases are caused by microscopic viruses. They are serious and
potentially life threatening diseases. Please for your safety and the
safety of your customers do not allow trying on of earrings. In
addition: Alcohol does not kill Hepatitis or the HIV virus.

I felt compelled to extend this note. I am a Nurse Practitioner and
an Occupational Health Specialist. I deal with Occupational Exposure
of Blood Borne Pathogens. Education and Prevention are priceless
tools. Thank you for listening…

Catherine - I had no idea so many diseases could be transmitted via
earrings. It’s scary. Is there any thing we can use to clean the
posts that would destroy such contamination? Iodine, mercurochrome,
hydrogen peroxide? Thanks.


Catherine and all, I agree with you on the dangers from Hepatitus and
AIDS, but I have been told that a 10% solution of bleach and water
will suffice. Is this accurate? Thanks for your input! Susan Ronan in
beautiful Coronado, where summer makes the air smell like the ocean!

Hear, hear! Finally, someone who’s an authority in a health field has
told the truth. Swabbing earring posts with alcohol is an outdated
panacea that needs a well-deserved grave. Making a buck at the expense
of someone’s health is unethical. Listen to this lady’s sensible

Most sincerely,
Katherine Palochak

. All the I’ve ever read regarding HIV infection STATES:
HIV cannot be passed on via siliva, and does not remain alive on
surfaces that are DRY. If you wipe the posts with alcohol (which
dries very, very quickly) you’re saying that one can still pass this
virus??? Wouldn’t the post have to be covered in wet blood and
then poked into a new (raw) ear before this virus would spread???

If HIV and Hepatitis B and/or C spread this easily, I would think
that most of those who work in the medical field would be scared to
death of being around these contamination each and every day.

With all due respect to the health professionals here, let’s try and
keep this in perspective. In theory, serious diseases could be
transmitted on an earring post. But can anyone, anywhere, point me
toward some scientific evidence giving a better assessment of the
true risk? Have any scientific studies been conducted regarding
transmission rates through earring posts? Has anyone even heard of a
case where someone became ill after trying on an earring? How great
is the risk, really? Greater or lower than the risks encountered when
using a public restroom? I haven’t found this type of data yet,
although I’m still looking…

When I talked to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta about
this issue, (I was researching an article and was trying to figure out
how big a risk trying on earrings posed), their response was they
don’t keep statistics on anything like that because they don’t
consider it a serious public health risk. The PR guy was frankly a bit
puzzled that I’d even ask – in his assessment, earrings just didn’t
pose a high risk of infection.

It all comes down to risk assessment. There is no such thing as a
perfectly safe activity. Your customers are in significantly more
danger driving to the craft show in their cars (car accidents are one
of the leading causes of death in this country), eating fair food
(food borne pathogens are considerably more common than blood-borne,
and all that fatty food is a contributing factor for heart disease,
another leading cause of death) and then crossing the parking lot to
return to their cars (you’ve seen the way people drive in parking
lots!) Your customer could also trip over your rug or display case and
crack their head open – but that doesn’t mean you’d eliminate rugs or
display cases. Is this an area you should avoid the risk? I’m not
sure, but I wouldn’t react in a panic, either. Not until some sort of
data was offered that allowed me to better assess the risk, at any
rate. It can be really easy to start being afraid of your own shadow.

My two cents.


This subject has already been dealt with. Please look in the
archives. However every time this subject comes up I feel obligated to
ask whether anyone out there actually has a documented case of someone
catching a horrible disease from trying on earrings. Documented.
Like it really happened and was written up in a respected medical
journal. Please reference the actual article.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hepatitis B, C and HIV are spread many of the same ways primarily
through blood to blood and sexual transmission. There is the
possibility of transmitting these virus via earrings if one person who
is infected has a sore on their ear and the person trying them on
after also has a sore or accidentally pokes themselves while trying
them on. I am not trying to create hysteria, I’m trying to educate.

Alcohol is more a cleanser as are the other items you mentioned.
They will clean however, that does not mean that they will KILL the
organisms. The best way to kill the organisms is with a 10% Bleach
Solution soak.

Thank you for your expression of concern and taking the time to
learn. If I get one person to be aware and take some precaution, I
feel my efforts have been successful.

HIV is a relatively weak virus. It is not spread by saliva, unless
there is blood in the saliva ( infection of the gums, sores, etc).
And yes, the virus dies when the medium that it is in dries. The
risks of contracting HIV via earrings is very low. What I was trying
to point out is that in theory, the possibility exists. Having
pierced ears myself, I know that sometimes the ears do get irritated,
for numerous reasons ( simple irritation, sweating, wearing cheap
post, etc). It takes blood to blood transmission. If someone who is
HIV positive, has an irritated ear piercing and someone else comes
along immediately after with a similar infection or accidentally pokes
a little too much… the possibility exists. The greatest risk is
with Hepatitis. It is a MUCH stronger virus, lives on surfaces and is
a real possibility. As I state originally, this is the greatest risk.
Unfortunately, Hepatitis can take months to incubate. Many times
people are unaware of how they were exposed.

And yes, my friend, as a person who does work in the Medical Field
every day we ARE afraid and very much aware of these risks. Nurses,
Doctors, EMTS, Dentists etc, we deal with this possibility by becoming
educated and through PREVENTION. We wear gloves, sterilize equipment
via autoclaves, we wear protecting clothing, masks etc. I counsel
those individuals who get exposed via needlesticks, tatoos, splashes,
bites and in some unimaginable ways. Most of the time, these
individuals have negative post exposure results, however, some do not.
My goal is just to educate. That alcohol swab will not kill
Hepatitis virus. I know that I would not try on earrings and I
wouldn’t want my daughter too either. Why take that risk?

Once again a sort of panic is setting in about “contamination.”

There has been no recorded case of anyone contracting HIV or
hepatitis A, B, C (or D) from trying on a pair of earrings.

There is the theoretical possibility that it might happen if the two
individuals concerned both have wounds in the ear or if there is
faecal contamination and oral contact with the contaminated earwires.

It’s nice to ensure that clients feel good about trying on earrings
and that they don’t feel queasy about it but we need to recognise that
we are catering to a taboo rather than a scientific actuality. There
are not thousands of HIV and hepatitis infected earwires roaming the
streets waiting to infect us.

The advice given by the medical profession is that a wipe with bleach
will render the surfaces sterile.

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

I have been following the discussion on contamination from trying on
earrings with much interest. I am interested in keeping my product
as safe as possible to the consumer, but I am also interested in
selling that product. I encourage people to try things on before
buying them, especially in the upper price brackets. I don’t want a
customer to make a purchase for several hundred dollars only to have
them contact me a week later to say they changed their minds about the
piece after getting home and trying them on. I routinely wipe down
my jewelry, however I know that is not sufficient to kill germs. I
would be curious to hear from some gallery owners where people
routinely try on pieces before purchasing them - how do you handle
it??? Curiously, several people have mentioned the use of bleach.
It has always been my understanding that bleach and silver/gold are
not a good mix. Is this not correct??

GRACE in Cleveland - still hoping for a reasonable and efficient
way to handle this problem. especially during outdoor shows.

Rubbing alcohol will take care of the germs. You can get a box of
individual moistened packets at any pharmacy, as they are used to
sterilize skin before injection. It won’t harm silver or gold. And
it can also be used to remove markings with a sharpie pen.


Hi Catherine, This is great info and of course, none of us want to
spread disease or hurt anyone. BUT, if the client chooses to try the
earring on first before they spend $1200.00 on them(will it swing
right, will it hang straight, is it too heavy, do I look terrific in
it?)…then I will not stop them.

My question is how should I clean this earring after so I know I am
not spreading disease and do not harm my gold. Could a bleach wipe
followed by a neutralizing bath be a safe approach to both disease
control and care of the fine metal?


How about putting it in the ultrasonic at hot emperatures then simply
steam cleaning the earring ,. Daniel Grandi