Can You Really Get Ink Poisoning from an Ordinary Writing Pen?

We’ve stumbled upon numerous posts from people concerned about the possibility of ink poisoning. These worries arise from writing on the skin with a pen or marker, getting accidentally jabbed by a pen, or even having eye contact with the ink.

So, we decided to investigate whether pen ink is toxic or poisonous and whether you can get ink poisoning from a pen?

1. Is Pen Ink Poisonous if Swallowed?

An Ant Drinking Ink
Image by Michael Bok Flickr

After thorough research, we can confidently report that you cannot get ink poisoning from swallowing ink.

To feel sick, you’d have to ingest the contents of at least a half-dozen pens, and even then, it’s unlikely to be fatal. Uncomfortable, perhaps, but not deadly.

So, feel free to chew the end of your pen without fearing death. However, ingesting plastic can’t be healthy in the long run.

And as for the ant-drinking ink in the image above, it reportedly spent over an hour consuming it without harm.

2. Can You Get Ink Poisoning By Writing or Drawing on Your Skin With a Pen?

Can You Get Ink Poisoning By Writing or Drawing on Your Skin With a Pen

We’ve all doodled on our hands or arms at some point and then wondered if it’s bad to draw on your skin with a pen.

Rest assured. You won’t get ink poisoning from writing or drawing on your body.

It means you’re relatively safe jotting down a phone number on your hand or accidentally sticking yourself with the pen in your pocket (although there’s always the risk of infection from a poke).

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, combined dyes/pigments and solvents to make up ink are generally not poisonous.

Sharpie Tattoos: Are They Safe?

3. Sharpie Tattoos: Are They Safe?

Sharpie Tattoos Are They Safe
Val Capone from the Windy City Rollers Image Credit Liz Henry Flickr

Sharpies are popular for creating temporary tattoos on the skin.

While some Sharpie markers, such as the fine point markers, are AP-certified, non-toxic and generally considered safe, not all are.

It’s important to note that Sharpies are not explicitly designed for use on the skin.

If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, it’s best to avoid using Sharpies. Just because drawing on yourself with a pen is relatively safe doesn’t mean you can freely create Sharpie tattoos without any potential risks.

Some Sharpie markers bear the A.P. Seal, which indicates that they are non-toxic even if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

However, other Sharpie markers contain chemicals like Xylene, which can pose a risk through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption across the skin and mucous membranes.

4. Alternatives for Skin Decoration: Uni POSCA Markers and Temporary Tattoos

If you’re looking for a safe way to decorate your skin, Uni POSCA markers might be an option. Although they are not specifically designed for use on the skin, they are water-based and have gained popularity among many people due to having no harmful chemicals in their ink.

However, it’s always best to test the markers on a small skin patch before applying any extensive designs to ensure you don’t have any adverse reactions.

Alternatively, you can opt for temporary tattoos specifically designed for skin application.

 These tattoos are easily applied and removed without causing any harm to your skin, making them a safer and more suitable choice for skin decoration.

However, don’t get one if someone offers to paint a black tattoo on you, often referred to as black henna or neutral henna.

They contain high levels of an illegal black chemical dye that is banned from being used on people’s skin.

Not only can it scar you for life, but there is also the possibility of having a life-threatening allergic reaction. Check out the British Skin Foundations website has more information.

5. What Happens If You Accidentally Jab Yourself with a Pen?

What Happens If You Accidentally Jab Yourself with a Pen

If you accidentally stab yourself with a pen and worry about ink entering your bloodstream, you should be perfectly safe, as pen ink is usually considered non-toxic.

You may experience slight skin reddening and irritation, but treat it like a cut or graze: clean the area and apply antiseptic cream. If you’re concerned about infection, seek medical advice.

6. Is Pen Ink Toxic?

Are Pen Inks Toxic

You can check the Art & Creative Materials Institute for those concerned about pen and marker toxicity.

This organization certifies items containing no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or cause acute or chronic health problems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) further dismisses the idea of ink poisoning from pens, listing them under the heading “products that are usually not harmful” in its “Management of Poisoning: A Handbook for Health Care Workers.” According to the book:

“Ink: ball-point pens, felt-tip pens, and fountain pens contain so little ink that there is not enough to cause poisoning if it is sucked from a pen.

Some inks may cause soreness in the mouth. Large amounts of ink swallowed from a bottle could be irritant, but severe poisoning has not been reported.”

The NIH Website confirms this: “large amounts of writing ink must be consumed (more than an ounce) before treatment is needed.”

However, some inks contain tiny amounts of chemicals like phenol, ethyl glycol, or Xylene (usually used in permanent markers), which can be dangerous in large quantities, so you’d want to avoid ingesting too much of them.

If you want safer water-based pens and markers, check out our Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Pens & Markers, where we go into more detail about the advantages and disadvantages and recommendations for each type of pen or marker.

7. Symptoms of Ink Exposure

Symptoms of Ink Exposure

While ink poisoning might be a misnomer, exposure to ink can cause some symptoms:

  • Ink in the eyes may cause irritation and blurred vision. Flush the ink out with cool water and seek medical treatment if required.
  • Swallowing ink is unlikely to have lasting effects but may cause mild stomach ache and slight nausea; if symptoms persist, seek medical advice.
  • Staining the skin or mucus membranes usually requires scrubbing the ink away; according to the NIH, a hospital visit is typically unnecessary.

8. Ink Poisoning Real or Not: The Verdict

To conclude, ink poisoning from a pen is highly unlikely. You can use pens and markers without fear if you don’t consume large amounts of ink.

Stay informed about the safety of your pens and markers, and remember to seek medical advice if you’re concerned about any ink-related incidents.

On a related note, you cannot get lead poisoning from a pencil.

 And while we’re on the subject, you might be interested in learning about the origins of the phrase “poison pen” in another of our blog posts.

Being cautious is essential, but you can continue using writing instruments without concern.

Photo of author

Peter Warrior: Pen & Pencil Expert

With nearly a decade of experience in the pen industry, I successfully ran an online pen business for 9 years. My deep-rooted passion for pens and pencils led me to become a part-time blogger, where I've dedicated myself to sharing the wealth of knowledge I've amassed over the years. I'm a firm believer in the power of the written word, as echoed by Malcolm Forbes: "Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will." My expertise is not just rooted in business, but in the genuine appreciation and understanding of the art of writing instruments.

41 thoughts on “Can You Really Get Ink Poisoning from an Ordinary Writing Pen?”

  1. Thanks so much. I wasnt worried that i would get ink poisoning but one of my friends “angela” kept saying that writing on myself with pen will kill me. 너 는 안마젔으니깐 신관 꺼

  2. I was in class chewing on a pen and it exploded in my mouth it was a pilot g2 pen and I swallowed a little. I don’t feel sick I’m just scared:(

  3. Ok good I draw all over myself in class it’s so boring!!! My friend told me about ink poisoning and i blew it off. But now i wanna be a shadowhunter for halloween and i want to draw all over myself because shadowhunters use runes so is that bad if you draw all over yourself?

  4. I was stabbed very hard by a black pen and now my throat really this a conicdence?please reply asap i really need to know

    • Unless you got stabbed in the throat by the pen, I doubt the two are related. But if your throat is hurting that much, it would probably be a good idea to ring your physician.

  5. thanks this really helped as I just drew a dragon and flower tattoo on my arm in total defiance of what ive been told at least now I kno I wont get ink poisoning

  6. I am just worried because I always draw on myself with markers like on my arms and I am just worried about the long term affects.

  7. Phew today I drew a line on my hand with pen and my friend said I will get ink poising I got well scared thank you so Mich I’m still scared tho ….. I think I drew it on my vein is that still ok please reply

  8. It’s good u cant get ink poisoning from writing on yourself because I do it all the time and also a lot and my friend said that I could get ink poisoning from doing that. Now I can prove them wrong!

  9. I recently drew a ink tattoo on my hand to my elbow and I have been experiencing a small amount of pain when I move my hand

  10. Haha, I just gave myself a stick’n’poke tattoo, and realized that I used the wrong ink o.o

    But then this post is just like “Bah, it’ll be fine.” Thanks for not telling me I’ll die an immense and horrific death.

  11. Good, cause I always doodle on my hand when I get bored and my friends are always yelling at me and saying I will get ink poisoning. Now I can prove them wrong 😉

  12. I was scared I got ink poisoning cuz my friend had got it and I drew on myself them felt a survere pain in my ars so….. Thanks.

  13. Thank god I got so scared because I drew on myself and my arm started to burn and I felt a servere pinching type pain.i had heard that you could get ink poisoning and my friend had got ink poisoning fr drawing on her self so yah…. Thank yah though.

  14. I was so worried I just have myself a tattoo with pen ink and my sister said I might get ink poisoning!!! I was scared beond belief!

  15. Thank you so much! I always draw on myself and I didn’t think it was bad for me. Then I heard of ink poisoning and thought I would get it. But now I know I have nothing to worry about.

  16. I swollled pan ink and It doesnt feel good and I got a chest burn and I feel werid is that normal !!!!!!!!!!!! I dont know but I says on the internet that swolling pen ink wont make you die or anything it says it might make you sick.

  17. I don’t know if I have ink poison because today a pen burst in my mouth at school and I swallowed the ink and now wen I swallow it really hurts can someone tell me if I have ink poison or not I am really scared ?

  18. Ah thank you! I always panick about things like this my hand is a little swollen on the side and I was really paranoid about if it was ink poisoning my mum said its just where I must have knocked it but I was really scared! Ahaha I feel so relieved now 🙂

  19. This really helped because after i drew a key on my hand my friend told me i might have ink poisoning. This really helped thanks 🙂


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