First off, there’s really no such thing as “surgical steel”. Or to word it better, that term tells us nothing of the actual intended use of that metal. That could mean steel for kitchen knives, or steel used for medical instruments (not medical implants).
The same applies to steel that is simply listed as “stainless steel”. That means nothing more than chromium being added so the steel does not rust.
The APP’s jewelry standards states steel that is ASTM F138 compliant or ISO 5832-1 compliant has been proven safe for use in human implantation, and therefor meets The APP’s standards as a material that is safe and acceptable for jewelry used in initial piercings (with proper threading and surface finish).
There is substantial documentation from scientific and medical research/publications to support which materials are deemed safe for use as human implants (that’s from a medical stance of “implants”, not body piercing).
So The APP feels comfortable relying upon the medical/scientific research to deem what materials are the safest option for initial body piercings.
The important thing to remember with any implant grade material is that there is no single perfect material for implants. Implant grade steel has pros and cons, implant grade titanium has pros and cons when you’re talking about medical implants.
For the purpose of body piercing, which isn’t as invasive as say a hip replacement, the majority of the population will do just fine with either of those materials. But of course, it is possible that a very small percentage of people could have a sensitive reaction to either steel or titanium (getting back to the point of there being no single “perfect” implant grade material).
So it makes me feel pretty darn good to have reputable jewelry manufacturers making and selling quality jewelry that meets not only The APP’s standards, but also ASTM and ISO standards for implant grade materials.
Jewelry For Initial Piercings
Cody Vaughn - APP Outreach Committee