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?
Table of Contents
1. Is Pen Ink Poisonous if Swallowed?
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.)
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?
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.
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?
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.”
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
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.
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