Can You Get Ink Poisoning from a Pen?

This one may seem a little obvious, but we’ve come across a fair number of postings from people worried they might have gotten ink poisoning by writing on themselves or getting jabbed by a pen, and it made us curious.

InkAfter doing a little research, we are happy to report back that you’d have to swallow the contents of a half-dozen pens to make yourself feel sick, and it isn’t likely to be fatal. Maybe uncomfortable, but not deadly.

That 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 the danger of infection from a poke, of course.)

In fact, it might be a little strong to even call it ink poisoning, since the combination of dyes/pigments and solvents that make up ink generally aren’t considered poisonous, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

And, “large amounts of writing ink must be consumed (more than an ounce) before treatment is needed,” the NIH website says.

Since the symptoms are limited to irritation of the eyes and staining of the skin or mucus membranes, the treatment basically consists of scrubbing away the ink. The NIH says you probably wouldn’t even need to go to a hospital.

The World Health Organization goes even further in dismissing the idea of ink poisoning. It lists pens under the heading “products that are usually not harmful,” in its “Management of Poisoning: A Handbook for Health Care Workers.”

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 serious poisoning has not been reported.

However, there’s a caveat to all this. Some inks contain tiny amounts of chemicals like phenol, ethyl glycol or xylene (usually used in permanent markers), all of which can be dangerous in large amounts, so you’d obviously want to avoid ingesting too much of them.

Basically, if you don’t drink a lot of ink, you’ll be just fine.

But in case you’re concerned about the toxicity of your pens and markers, you can check the Art & Creative Materials Institute. The organisation has a program that certifies items that “contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or to cause acute or chronic health problems.”

Among the certified pens on the website: the Uni-ball Jetstream.

22 thoughts on “Can You Get Ink Poisoning from a Pen?

  1. 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 :)

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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 ?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 ;)

  10. When I was doing science my pen was dry, so I put on my tongue so it works, and then my throat started to hurt a little, so thx a lot.

  11. 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.

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