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

This one may seem a little obvious, but we have come across a fair number of postings from people worried they might have gotten ink poisoning.

This can be either by writing with an ink or marker pen on themselves, getting jabbed by a pen, or even having eye contact with the ink. This made us curious. Is pen ink toxic or poisonous and is it possible to get ink poisoning from a pen?

Can You Get Ink Poisoning From A Pen

1. Is Pen Ink Poisonous if Swallowed?

Ant drinking Ink

Image by Michael Bok Flickr

After doing a little research, we are happy to report back that you cannot get ink poisoning from ink ingestion. 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.

So now you can carry on chewing the end of your pen safe in the knowledge you are not going to die. However, all that plastic going into your body cant be very good for you in the long run. In case you are wondering about the ant apparently, it spent over an hour drinking the ink and came to no harm.

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

We have all one it sat at the desk and doodled on our hand or harm and then afterward thought is it bad to draw on your skin with a pen? As with swallowing ink, you are not going to get ink poisoning from writing or drawing on your body.

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.)

US National Library of Medicine

In fact, it might be a little strong to even call it 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.

Are Sharpie Tattoos Safe?

Sharpie Tattoo Val Capone
Val Capone from the Windy City Rollers

Image Credit Liz Henry Flickr

Just because it is relatively safe to draw on yourself with a pen does this mean that you can decorate yourself with Sharpie tattoos. This is a little tricky to answer as although some Sharpies markers are AP-certified non-toxic not all of them are.

Products such as Sharpie fine point markers bearing the AP Seal are non-toxic, even if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed. But some Sharpie Markers contain Xylene which can pose a risk via inhalation, ingestion, and absorption across the skin and mucous membranes.

This does not just apply to Sharpies, but all brands of permanent and non-permanent markers and it is definitely worth reading the packaging to see what type of marker you have.

Sharpie does not recommend using their pens on the skin, but this has not deterred artist Danny Quirk who uses Sharpie Markers to detail the human body. Click here to check out Danny’s artwork.

As well as Sharpie fine point markers a lot of people use Uni POSCA markers to decorate their skin. Uni POSCA’s are a water-based non-toxic paint marker that is relatively harmless and slightly easier to remove than Sharpies.

Although the manufacturer Uni-Ball does not recommend using their markers on skin as they have been designed as a writing instrument and have not been dermatologically tested.

Temporary Tattoos

While on the subject of temporary Sharpie tattoos it is worth noting that the ink in most of the temporary tattoos that you can buy packaged either online or in the mall should be non-toxic and safe to use on your skin. These are the type that you stick on dry skin and then rub with water and let dry. Always check the packaging to make sure that you know what’s in them and that they are AP certified.

However, if someone offers to paint a black tattoo on you often referred to as black henna or neutral henna don’t get one they contain high levels of an illegal black chemical dye that is banned from use 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. more information can be found here on the NHS Website.

3. What happens if I jab myself with a pen?

What If I Jab Myself With a Pen

If you accidentally jab yourself with a pen and are worried that the ink has gone into your bloodstream you should be perfectly safe as pen ink is usually considered to be nontoxic. You may have a slight reddening of the skin and some skin irritation but treat it as you would if you had a cut or a graze clean the area and then apply antiseptic cream. If you are concerned that you may have an infection, then obviously seek medical advice.

4. Is Pen Ink Toxic?

But in case you’re concerned about the toxicity of your pens and markers, you can check the Art & Creative Materials Institute. The organization 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.”

Art and Creative Materials Institute

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

The book states that:

“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.”

This is confirmed by the NIH Website that goes on to say that, “large amounts of writing ink must be consumed (more than an ounce) before treatment is needed,”

Basically, if you don’t drink large amounts of ink, you’ll be just fine.

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.

5. Symptoms of Ink Poisoning

Symptons of Ink Poisoning

These are the following symptoms of ink poisoning although as we have already discussed technically speaking it is not actually poisoning. In any case, if you have an accident with an ink pen then you may experience the following symptoms:

If you get ink in your eyes, then you are likely to suffer from irritation of the eyes and possibly blurred vision. The first course of action is to flush the ink out with cool water and then seek medical treatment if required.

Swallowing ink is unlikely to have any lasting effects but it may cause a mild stomach ache and slight nausea. Once again if the symptoms persist then seek medical advice.

Staining of the skin or mucus membranes, if you have an ink stain on your skin the treatment basically consists of scrubbing away the ink. The NIH says you probably wouldn’t even need to go to a hospital for this.

On a related note, you also cannot get lead poisoning from a pencil, and while we are on the subject why not check out our post about where the phrase “poison pen” came from.


Can I use Sharpie markers for marking on glass baking or ceramic dishware – Sharpie.Com FAQ

Xylene: An overview of its health hazards and preventive measures – U.S National Library of Medicines


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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