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Ask Tamara: “Is There Lead In Pencils?”

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 3.30.38 PMAsk Tamara

March 16, 2015
Question from Mama E. In Los Angeles, California
Via Facebook


Is there lead in pencils? Remember as kids we had #2 lead pencils? Still in there? Just threw out all the cheap ones they get as prizes/gifts and got the ‘non toxic’ Ticonderoga version. No mention of lead on the box.

– Mama E.

Tamara’s Response:

No one has really used lead in writing instruments [aside from some painted coatings or contaminated plastic, etc.]—for centuries at least; the center of a pencil is and has always been made of graphite. There are historical records of a stick of solid lead being used as a crude writing instrument in antiquity (I believe back in Roman times) but – to my knowledge actual pencils (the ones wrapped in wood) have never contained lead as the writing element. However – there have been instances where lead paint was found as the decorative exterior coating on some pencils in recent decades (even within the last 10 years.) BUT please note – since Prop 65 and the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act), even lead paint on pencils is not so much a concern any more PLUS most children‘s pencils (pencils specifically marketed to younger children – and therefore regulated under the law) are not decorated with paint, but wrapped in decorative paper with designs.

[FWIW – I too buy Ticonderoga for my family.]

Thank you to Mama C. for responding to this question and sharing this link about “Why pencil lead is called lead.”:

Piece on Lead Paint on Pencils from 1971:

Link for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act:–Standards/Statutes/The-Consumer-Product-Safety-Improvement-Act/

Wikipedia Page mentioning Leaded Roman Stylus’:

California Prop 65:

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