A surprisingly popular set of questions in the writing and pen world have to do with ink poisoning. What is it? Can you get it from a normal pen, and so on. While not being poison control experts, we’ve done our research and will answer these questions.
First of all, this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used to treat a real-life exposure to anything you consider could be poisonous. If you are exposed to such a material, you should call your local emergency phone number (likely 911) or call Poison Control (800-222-1222).
What Is Ink Poisoning?
Ink poisoning is what happens when someone ingests the ink that is normally used in a pen. This could happen by putting the writing end of a pen in your mouth by mistake. It could also happen by drinking fountain pen ink, which could mean much higher quantities ingested.
Are Inks Poisonous?
Modern inks are, generally speaking, not poisonous and don’t contain dangerous chemicals, minerals, or compounds.
Pen inks are a mixture of dyes or pigments, solvents, thickeners, and water. Some of these materials, aside from the water, could be irritants but they aren’t considered life-threatening except in large quantities.
Many modern inks have a ASTM-D4236 certification. When an ink or similar art product conforms to ASTM-D4236, any hazardous materials in the product are clearly labeled on the packaging.
Other inks and markers can conform to the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) standards, using the Children’s Product Certificate standard.
Is Swallowing Ink Dangerous?
Swallowing small amounts of ink isn’t ideal, but it generally won’t be dangerous. For example, if you put your pen in your mouth and actually put the ink side in instead of the other side, this isn’t a major cause for concern.
That said, if you consume large amounts of ink or you swallow multiple millimeters of fountain pen ink, you should call poison control.
Most inks are not poisonous ink ingestion is generally considered to be a very worrying condition, but it’s still worth treating with the utmost amount of care and taking the proper precautions, such as calling a medical professional for an assessment if you swallow it in any significant quantities.
I’ve Jabbed Myself With A Pen
If you’ve accidentally poked yourself with a pen and gotten some ink under your skin you will have inadvertently taken some ink into your system. This situation, while painful, won’t be a method by which much ink can enter your body. In most case this won’t be problematic, aside from the initial wound, so professional medical care may not been needed.
If you feel poorly or the wound doesn’t look right after the initial recovery would have been expected, you should contact a medical professional.
- CDC.gov (pdf)