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?
Table of Contents
- 1. Is Pen Ink Poisonous if Swallowed?
- 2. Can You Get Ink Poisoning By Writing or Drawing on Your Skin With a Pen?
- 3. Sharpie Tattoos: Are They Safe?
- 4. Alternatives for Skin Decoration: Uni POSCA Markers and Temporary Tattoos
- 5. What Happens If You Accidentally Jab Yourself with a Pen?
- 6. Is Pen Ink Toxic?
- 7. Symptoms of Ink Exposure
- 8. Ink Poisoning Real or Not: The Verdict
1. Is Pen Ink Poisonous if Swallowed?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
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.