We get a fair number of people coming to the blog asking if pencil lead is harmful? And wanting to know if you can really get lead poisoning from a pencil. so we thought we’d address it briefly.
Table of Contents
1. Is Pencil Lead Poisonous?
For those who are wondering if pencil lead is poisonous or toxic and if they can get lead poisoning from a pencil? The answer is, ‘No.’ Not possible…not even from a whole box of pencils.
Why not? Because there is no lead in a pencil. You are perfectly safe and cannot die from pencil lead. Yes, it is called ‘pencil lead’ but it actually is graphite, a totally different substance from lead.
2. Is Graphite Poisonous?
So the next obvious question is can you get graphite poisoning, is it toxic? fortunately, the answer again is no graphite is not poisonous, or all the pencil chewers would be in a spot of bother.
Graphite is not a metal, but a mineral formed from carbon. If you are interested in learning more about this take a look at where does pencil lead come from?.
3. What happens if You Eat Pencil Graphite?
If you eat pencil graphite (pencil lead) You should be ok. The graphite used in pencils is more or less harmless, as the US National Institute of Health explains on their website. Where they discuss the problems you may encounter if you inadvertently swallowed a pencil.
Basically, you are unlikely to experience any symptoms if you swallow pencil lead or are inadvertently stabbed by a pencil. at worst you may experience a mild stomach ache or possibly be sick. but there should be no lasting harm done. If this is severe then it is always worth going to see a doctor.
4. Is Mechanical Pencil Lead Toxic?
The simple answer is no because the lead in a mechanical pencil is exactly the same as a wooden pencil lead. It is not actually lead but graphite the only difference been that it is not cased in wood and graphite is a nontoxic substance. If you would like to know more about wooden and mechanical pencils then take a look at Wooden Pencils Vs Mechanical Pencils.
5. Is There Lead in the Pencils Paint?
In the early days of pencil making the paint that they used to coat the wood with would have contained lead. Around the 1940’s a lot of manufacturers stopped adding lead to the paint that they were coating their products with. But it was not until 1978 that the U.S banned lead in paint and nearly 15 years later in 1992 when the UK finally got around to banning it.
So, getting stabbed with a bit of pencil lead, or swallowing some, is not going to give you lead poisoning. Of course, there would still be a hole in you from the stabbing, and swallowing bits of wood and other foreign material is a choking hazard, as well as a threat to your digestion.
Probably best just to use your pencil for writing.
(On a related note, you also cannot get ink poisoning from a pen.)