Crayola crayons are generally considered non-toxic and safe if ingested in small amounts. However, they are not intended to be eaten and ingesting large quantities or sharp pieces could potentially cause choking or intestinal blockage hazards. It’s best to avoid letting children eat crayons.
Crayola crayons are made mostly of paraffin wax and coloring pigments. Paraffin wax is a non-toxic substance derived from petroleum that is commonly used in cosmetics, candles, and art supplies. The pigments used to color crayons must meet standards for quality and safety set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
According to Crayola, all ingredients used in their crayons are non-toxic and safe. Their crayons are tested by an independent toxicologist to ensure they meet all regulations for children’s toys.
In the United States, crayons are regulated by the CPSC. They have strict requirements on the amount of lead and other toxic heavy metals allowed in crayons and children’s toys.
Crayons manufactured overseas can sometimes contain higher lead levels and fail to meet U.S. regulations. However, major brands like Crayola that produce crayons in the U.S. must pass independent testing to confirm their crayons are lead-free and safe.
Eating small or accidental amounts of crayon is generally not dangerous. Paraffin wax passes through the body undigested. The pigments are embedded in the wax and also pass through the gastrointestinal tract without being absorbed.
A study by the CPSC evaluated the stomach contents of children who ate crayons and found no evidence of tissue damage or other harmful effects. Mostly the wax just causes a laxative effect.
Ingesting larger pieces or quantities could potentially cause choking if the wax solidifies in the airway. The plastic wrapping can also be a choking hazard if swallowed. But overall, crayons are one of the least toxic art supplies. Substances like liquid paint, modeling clay, or glue are significantly more dangerous if ingested in large amounts.
For children with a habit of eating art supplies, there are some non-toxic alternatives:
- Edible crayons – Some companies make crayons from edible ingredients like vegetable oils. While ingesting high quantities of dye isn’t recommended, these crayons are designed to be non-toxic if eaten.
- Washable crayons – Water-soluble crayons can help minimize staining and exposure to pigments.
- Finger paint – Using non-toxic finger paint is a safe alternative since it is meant to be applied to the skin.
- Play-Doh – While not intended to be eaten, Play-Doh is made from non-toxic ingredients like water, salt and flour. Small ingestions are not dangerous.
While crayons themselves are relatively non-toxic, there are some risks associated with children eating them:
Swallowing large pieces or quantities of crayon may present a choking risk or cause a blockage in the digestive tract. Wax can solidify in the airway or esophagus. Sharp pieces of crayon could potentially puncture or scratch the esophagus or intestines.
Some children may be allergic or sensitive to dyes or other ingredients in crayons. Ingesting crayon pigments could potentially trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
Although major brands like Crayola test their crayons for toxicity, occasionallythere have been reports of contaminated crayons containing high lead levels. Lead poisoning is a potential risk if a child habitually eats crayons manufactured with toxic pigments.
The pigments can stain or discolor the mouth, teeth and gastrointestinal tract if large amounts are ingested. Prolonged staining would require medical treatment to remove.
Eating non-food items like crayons may indicate pica or other behavioral disorders. It’s important to monitor excessive ingestion and consult a pediatrician to avoid potential developmental delays.
Crayola and all major crayon brands have warnings advising against eating crayons. The FDA requires crayon boxes to be labeled with:
“FDA advises that the chronic ingestion of high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals in crayons and fingerspaints in children may contribute to adverse health effects”.
CPSC also issued this warning about avoiding crayon ingestion:
“The U.S. CPSC advises that children should avoid eating crayon. While crayons are not highly toxic, ingesting them frequently would be harmful.”
So in summary – small, accidental ingestions of crayon are generally harmless and common among toddlers. But crayons are still not food and frequent or excessive eating should be discouraged to avoid potential health and safety hazards.
Here are some guidelines from health organizations on crayon safety and ingestion:
- Monitor children during art activities and discourage eating crayons
- Buy quality brands that meet CPSC regulations
- Inspect for broken crayons and discard any with hazardous sharp points
- Provide edible art supplies like cookies or gum paste if child has a habit of eating art materials
- Consult pediatrician if you notice recurring ingestion or unusual cravings
- Supervise students closely during art time
- Set clear rules about not eating art supplies
- Purchase washable, non-toxic brands like Crayola for classroom use
- Discard broken crayons immediately
- Have students wash hands immediately after using crayons
- Don’t put crayons or any art supplies in your mouth
- Only use crayons for coloring, not eating!
- Wash your hands after you finish coloring
- Ask a grown-up before putting anything new into your mouth
While crayons don’t really provide any nutritional value, the act of coloring does have some benefits for child development:
Fine Motor Skills
Grasping and maneuvering crayons helps strengthen little hands and develop fine motor control.
Coloring allows kids to explore their imagination and creativity.
The feel of the waxy crayons and scent provides sensory stimulation. This can have a calming effect.
Drawing and coloring is an outlet for children to convey their thoughts and emotions.
Coloring within the lines helps reinforce hand-eye coordination.
So while crayons provide no real nutritional benefit if ingested, they do offer a variety of developmental benefits when used appropriately for art projects and coloring.
Alternatives to Eating
If your child is tempted to snack on art supplies, provide some healthier, edible alternatives:
Fruits & Vegetables
Offer sliced fruits like apples or bananas. Many kids enjoy dipping the fruit slices into yogurt. Raw veggies like green beans or snap peas are great finger foods.
Plain rice cakes offer a crunchy, non-messy snack. For variety, try lightly spreading peanut butter or avocado on top.
Cereal Snack Mix
Make a DIY trail mix by mixing together bite-sized whole grain cereals like Cheerios with nuts, pretzel sticks, dried fruits or yogurt drops.
Kids love these quick protein-packed snacks. Use a cookie cutter to make fun shaped quesadilla wedges.
Layer yogurt with berries, granola and a drizzle of honey in a plastic cup. Provide spoons or spill-proof straws for easy snacking.
These portable single-serve pouches contain applesauce or pureed fruits/veggies. Look for varieties without added sugars.
This protein-rich snack is perfectly portioned into edible strings that are fun to peel and eat.
Crunchy, lightly sweetened cereal like Cheerios are perfect for little snacking hands. Avoid excessively sugary varieties.
What to Do If Your Child Eats a Crayon
It’s common for toddlers and preschoolers to take an occasional bite of crayon. Here’s what to do if it happens:
Step 1: Stay Calm
Your child is unlikely to be harmed by a small ingestion, so first take a deep breath and remain calm. This will help reassure your child and assess the situation.
Step 2: Check for Signs of Injury
Examine your child’s mouth and throat for any signs of cuts, scratches or irritation. Also check for evidence of respiratory distress like choking or wheezing.
Step 3: Consider Calling the Poison Center
For advice, you can contact the national Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222. They can provide guidance based on the details of exposure.
Step 4: Call the Pediatrician
Notify your child’s doctor, especially if you notice any concerning symptoms. They may recommend bringing your child in for an exam.
Step 5: Monitor Symptoms
Watch for any signs of pain, discomfort, unusual bowel movements or allergic reaction over the next 48 hours. Seek medical care if symptoms persist or worsen.
Step 6: Limit Future Exposure
Reinforce safety and supervise closely during art time to prevent recurrence. Consider providing alternative non-toxic supplies.
With quick intervention and monitoring, a small ingestion should pass without incident. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
How to Transition Your Child to Non-Food Art Supplies
If your child has a habit of eating crayons or other art supplies, here are some tips to transition to safer non-food options:
Provide Engaging Edibles
Offer snacks like crunchy veggies, yogurt drops or rice cakes to satisfy oral cravings.
Try Washable Supplies
Water-soluble paint and crayons are less tempting to eat.
Demonstrate proper use of art supplies, reminding they are for creating not eating.
Set Clear Rules
Establish boundaries like keeping supplies at the table and washing hands after.
When they abstain from eating supplies, provide encouraging praise.
Only provide small amounts of art materials at a time and store safely out of reach.
Directly monitor all art sessions until the habit is broken.
Distract and Redirect
If attempts are made to eat supplies, immediately redirect attention to a new activity.
With patience and consistency, you can help protect your child while encouraging healthy artistic development. Consult your pediatrician if you have ongoing concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are crayons toxic if eaten?
Crayons made by major brands like Crayola have very low toxicity and pass through the body undigested. Chronic high ingestion could potentially cause toxicity with prolonged exposure to pigments. Small, accidental ingestions are generally not harmful.
Can eating crayons cause cancer?
There is no evidence linking crayon ingestion to cancer. The pigments in mainstream brands comply with safety regulations and are considered non-carcinogenic. Prolonged ingestion would be more likely to cause acute toxicity or bowel obstruction than cancer.
Can crayons get stuck in intestines?
It’s possible for large pieces of wax or plastic crayon wrappers to become lodged in areas with narrow openings like the pyloric sphincter. This could result in an intestinal blockage requiring medical removal.
How long does it take for crayons to pass through the body?
Most cases of accidental crayon ingestion pass through the body in 1-3 days without incident. The wax is indigestible and will color the stools until it has worked its way through the intestines.
Can crayons dissolve in the stomach?
The wax in crayons is resistant to dissolving by stomach acid. Small shavings may soften slightly but larger pieces and wrappers remain solid as they pass through the digestive tract. Dissolving occurs very slowly, if at all.
Should I induce vomiting if my child eats crayon?
According to poison control guidelines, it is not recommended to induce vomiting after crayon ingestion. Attempting to vomit increases the risk of aspirating melted wax into the lungs. Unless a massive amount was ingested or there are concerning symptoms, it is safer to allow it to pass naturally.
When should I call a doctor after crayon ingestion?
In most cases of accidental ingestion, calling the doctor is not necessary unless concerning symptoms develop. You should contact your child’s pediatrician if you observe signs of respiratory distress, choking, unusual pain or discomfort, bloody stools, vomiting, or other worrisome indicators that may suggest complications.
While crayons are designed for artistic purposes and not for eating, occasional accidental ingestion by toddlers generally causes no serious harm – other than some colorful stools! However, it’s still best to limit intake to avoid potential choking hazards or toxicity with chronic high exposure. Provide close supervision and safer alternative snacks to help discourage your budding artist from eating their art supplies. With some gentle redirection, you can keep your child’s colorful creations on the paper and out of their stomach.