©2005-2020 Unimax Supply Co Inc. NY, NY

316L versus F138

Metals for Body Piercing

Unimax Supply Co of NYC (Est 1989) estimates that as much as 99% of all body piercing metal is 316L surgical stainless steel, used by tens of thousands of piercers in millions of piercing for more than 30 years without incident.  There has never been evidence that users are harmed by using 316L rather than 316LVM or F-138. The argument against 316L is solely to gain market share by hoodwinking health departments with known faulty arguments.

Time and again those arguments to prohibit the use of safe and effective 316L have been shown to be false. Each time the pro F138 arguments are exposed new “talking points” are invented and old ones modified to look like new.

Unimax Supply Co has been in the business of supplying body piercing jewelry since the very beginning, more than 30 years ago. The oldest, most knowledgeable, and with the presentation of these arguments an authority in the piercing industry.

We have science on our side.

ASTM-F138 is the current version of what used to be called 316LVM. And the F-138 standard has some newer revisions making F-138 obsolete as it were.

For body piercing application, no legitimate argument has come forth that 316L is not suitable, nor has anyone ever argued that F-138 is superior by such an improvement in safety that no other metal should be used for body piercing jewelry.

A minority advocacy group has been attempting to influence rule-making to ban 316L and require 316LVM to line the pockets of their sponsoring businesses.

Supporters of 316L point to the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM, the author of the F-138 standard), the authority in metal standards, who consider that the number one criteria in standards-setting is safe and effective use over time, which trumps everything, and secondly, when making rules, rules should only specify the essential qualities that something must possess to meet the standard.

F-138 labeled product is a particular product. Legitimate standards would NEVER specify a particular product like F138.

F138 competes for market share as one of a number of stainless steel materials for medical implants, “a unique nomenclature for Fort Wayne Metals" having "… a more uniform chemistry [than 316L with minimal voids and contaminants" "...used for medical implants for many years (of use)." "… suture wire, orthopedic cables, skin closure staples, catheters, stylets, bone pins and many small parts" (www.fwmetals.com)

F138 has a vocal advocacy group with close ties and membership of the firms making body jewelry from F138. Tens of thousands of piercers use 316L, safely and effectively -- not F138.

The State of California supports the ASTM method of rule-making for Body Jewelry Metal by specifying “Surgical implant stainless steel” which includes 316L as well as 316LVM and other grades considered surgical implant grade.

"California's Metal-Containing Jewelry Law, Fact Sheet, February 2012"

"Body Piercing Jewelry (the component of jewelry that is placed in a new piercing or a mucous membrane) must be made from one or more of the following

(1) Surgical implant stainless steel [without specifying a particular one]
(2) Surgical implant grade of titanium..."and etc.

In the 90s a company positioned itself as a "high end" manufacturer by claiming the superiority for LVM over 316L and producing a very good fine mirror-like finish. Their prices were high end as well, limiting their market share.

316L firms and users maintain that safe and effective use by tens of thousands of piercers in millions of piercings over the last 30 years proves it is safe and effective and therefore should not be banned. 316L supporters further point out that ASTM methodology would never prohibit the use of other suitable materials that were safe and effective.

In rule-making pro-316L supporters ask that ASTM methodology be followed, not violated, which requires that proper standards be opened-ended specifying essential qualities of acceptable products so as not to limit competition to only one brand which would shut out other equally serviceable products, and would prevent new products from entering the market. Are health departments would have to change the rules every time F138 becomes F139 or another more refined standard?

F138 supporters claim that because LVM is a purer form of 316L, manufactured for medical use to meet the extraordinary demands of permanent placement within the human body it therefore must be the only suitable surgical implant stainless steel for body piercing jewelry. This is not logical. Safe usage, not technical specs for body jewelry rules the day.

Once again 316L advocates point out that the criteria for body piercing metal revolves around corrosion resistance, not load bearing, or ability to bend and flex. Body jewelry is not implants. In a liquid environment such as the body, Implants corrode and need replacement regardless of the material. Corrosion of metals in a liquid environment is inevitable. (Uhlig’s Corrosion Handbook).  All implanted metals inevitably release damaging ions into the body. Body piercing is not a medical implant in a liquid environment bonded to the body and does not release ions into the body.  Because there has never been a discernable problem with 316L as a metal used as a body piercing material the attempts to favor a few firms to increase their market share is a corrupting influence and they must be called out and Health Departments must address this issue.

Respectfully submitted
Westley Wood, President
Unimax Supply Co Inc
269 Canal St
New York, NY 10013


See also: http://www.wreyeting.org/