Pencil Lead | Illinois Poison Center 
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My Child Ate Pencil Lead

Jul 03, 2020
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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! 



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