Ink poisoning - I should be dead by now

Alright, when I was a kid, my parents always went crazy when we wrote on ourselves in pen/marker because of “ink poisoning”.

But as I got older I realized the nice little notepad the back of my left hand made and I’m always scribbling notes/dates on it. And with the different bands I’ve played with, I always get a stamp at the door with a considerable amount of ink (certainly more than it takes me to write “practice 4:30” on my hand). What are the most deadly inks (barring outright poisons, of course)? Do they make poison-free pens?

And what about my tattoos? I would think they would be even more deadly. How unfortunate yet funny it would be if my Pac-Man tattoo slowly ate my insides away!

I don’t know where your folks got the idea that ink is poison or that scientists never thought of making ink ‘poison free,’ but let me assure you, any inks that are used on the body are not poisonous…any more.

Gosh I hope it isn’t true. I’ve always just chalked it up as one of those things parents tell you to keep from doing something. You know like:

“Don’t make that face. One day it’s going to get stuck.”

“You can’t go in the water for at least 30 minutes after you’ve eaten.”

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Just a WAG, but once upon a time, ink had high concentrations of various metals–especially lead, copper, and gold.

Maybe it was once possible to get heavy metal poisoning from ink?


I almost hate to admit it, but I actually made ink for a living for a short while.

The formulation is as varied as the end use and some do have fairly toxic pigments in them. I wouldnt worry about those though, the quantities are miniscule and bound pretty well into the base. So unless you are considering eating a ream or so of custom printed material, dont sweat it.

If memory serves me, a common formulation for ball pen ink (each manufacturer specifies their own color and make up) would be;

60 lb Medium viscosity ink base. (yep there is such a thing)

15 lbs Water soluble wax

3 lbs of some type of polymer to make it shiny

5 lbs of carbon black

10 lbs of Thymol blue

and a lb or so of whatever tint color (red whatever)

While I wouldn’t drink it, theres nothing particularly toxic about it. I managed to get a fair amount of it on myself in a days work and once even to doused myself in about 50 gallons of it. (dont ask)

So go ahead, write all over your bad self.