Pencil Lead | Illinois Poison Center 
Resource Center

My Child Ate Pencil Lead

Sep 18, 2020
Print This Page

Pencil Lead                                                                   



This information applies to children who have unintentionally swallowed a small amount. If the child swallowed more than one mouthful, is having symptoms, or if you are not positive of the exact substance or amount swallowed, call your local Poison Center immediately 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a nurse, pharmacist or physician for recommendations specific to your situation. The call is free and confidential. 



  • Toxicity Level:  Minimally toxic


  • What It Is: The substance known as ‘pencil lead’ is actually graphite.  Graphite is a minimally-toxic carbon based substance.  Pencils do not contain any lead metal.  If your child has ingested or has been exposed to lead-containing products (such as in lead paint or a fishing weight), call your local Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222; true lead is very toxic to children. 


  • Toxicity: Graphite and other components of a pencil are considered to be minimally toxic if they are swallowed or drawn onto the skin.  If a pencil tip breaks or punctures the skin, contact the IPC or the child’s pediatrician for medical advice regarding the puncture injury.


  • Possible Symptoms of Overdose/Poisoning:  Ingestion of graphite or other pencil material is not expected to produce symptoms.  A child could choke on a small piece of pencil that has been broken or bitten off.  If your child is choking, call 911.


  • What You Should Do:  Give the child a few sips of water.  Any graphite that has been drawn on the skin should wash away easily with soap and water.  Call 1-800-222-1222 if your child has any symptoms.

NOTE:  If your child has gotten this substance in their eyes, please view our Eye Exposure information.



If you have any further questions about this substance, or if your child is experiencing any symptoms, call the poison center experts who are available 24/7 via the free, confidential helpline: 1-800-222-1222.   Don’t guess, be sure! 



Your feedback is important to maintain this resource.  Please take 1 minute to complete the survey:



← Browse other topics
Bookmark and Share


The IPC is the oldest poison center in the U.S. and serves one of the largest populations of all poison centers in the nation (covers all 102 Illinois counties with a total estimated population of nearly 12.9 million).  The IPC:


  • Provides a variety of free education and presentation materials that can be shared with your community (stickers, magnets, posters, children’s activity sheets, handouts, etc.).  Prior to placing your first order, if you haven’t already done so, please complete the free online Poison Prevention Education Course and Resource Center (PPERC) .  Eligible persons: anyone age 13 years or older living/working in Illinois; general public and healthcare providers alike.



  • Saves lives and improves patient care by working hand-in-hand with hospitals in Illinois to provide expert medical advice to doctors, nurses and paramedics treating patients exposed to potentially harmful substances. In addition, the IPC saves the people of Illinois $60 million annually by resolving 90 percent of poisoning cases from the general public over the telephone, preventing unnecessary 911 calls and visits to a doctor or hospital.  Click here for more information.