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First Aid for Graphite Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 28, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Graphite Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound.

What is Graphite Poisoning?

  • Graphite is a form of crystalline carbon that is used in making pencil lead, batteries, brake linings, refractory linings, etc.
  • Graphite Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Graphite Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Graphite Toxicity
  • Pencil Lead Poisoning
  • Pencil Lead Toxicity
  • Swallowing Pencil
  • Swallowing Pencil Lead

What are the Causes of Graphite Poisoning?

  • Graphite Poisoning is caused by the ingestion (swallowing) of graphite, usually pencil lead
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Graphite is a non-toxic substance, but swallowing it may lead to choking in young children

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Graphite Poisoning?

In most cases, no symptoms may be observed following Graphite Poisoning. In some cases, the following signs and symptoms may be noted:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Obstruction of the bowel, if large quantities are swallowed/consumed
  • Children may choke on small pencil pieces leading to coughing, breathing difficulties, and chest pain

How is First Aid administered for Graphite Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Graphite Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Undertaking imaging studies to assess ingested particles
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Graphite Poisoning?

First aid for Graphite Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Graphite Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Graphite Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms, with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good. In most cases, since graphite is a non-poisonous substance, the outcome is good
  • However, swallowing large quantities of pencil lead along-with pencil wood may cause blockage of the intestines, which may even necessitate a surgery

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Graphite Poisoning be Prevented?

Graphite Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household products
  • Keeping small pencils out of reach of young children, or supervise their use
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 30, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 28, 2018