What's found in pens

Stiftung Warentest warns of harmful substances in crayons

Small children don't just paint on paper with pens: some of the paint can end up in their mouths or decorate their hands. With many products this is not harmless. Because as Stiftung Warentest has found out, many pens contain harmful substances.

Expensive painting supplies, few pollutants? It is not that easy. Stiftung Warentest has also found many questionable substances in more expensive pens. Around every third of 35 sets tested was therefore rated "poor": the testers gave this grade twelve times, reports the foundation in its magazine "test" (issue 8/2018).

In addition, seven products were rated "very good", six with "good", nine with "satisfactory" and one with "sufficient". Crayons, fiber pens and ink cartridges were examined.

Colored pencils: These are the test winners

In terms of colored pencils, the products from Faber-Castell (0.75 euros per pencil), Stabilo (0.48 euros), Bic Kids (0.33 euros), Mäc Geiz (0.08 euros) and Depesche (0.41 Euros) all with "good". The most expensive pen in the test (0.79 euros) was, of all things, the worst.

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Products that contained critical amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the paintwork or in the mine were particularly negative. Some of them can cause cancer, alter the genetic make-up or endanger reproduction. They get into the body, for example, when children nibble or suck on pens. If possible, parents should use unpainted pens made of natural wood, recommend the product testers.

In some crayons, aromatic amines were also found, which come from the so-called azo colorants. Some of these substances can cause tumors or are suspected to do so. The manufacturers assure that these substances are firmly bound and not soluble in water. However, there is also no risk: none of the crayons rated "good" contain no amines.

A woman holds crayons in her hand: Stiftung Warentest has also found many questionable substances in more expensive pens. (Source: sylv1rob1 / Symbolbild / Getty Images)

Fiber pens and ink cartridges: These are the test winners

In the case of fiber pens, the product testers gave the pens from Edding (0.43 euros), Herlitz (0.15 euros), Mäc Geiz (0.10 euros), Pelikan (0.30 euros), and Stabilo the grade "very good" (0.51 euros) and Stylex (0.13 euros). The use of preservatives led to the devaluation of other products: They can trigger allergies.

In terms of ink cartridges, the testers found only those from Schneider harmless and rated them as "very good" (0.12 euros per cartridge). All other cartridges were rated "unsatisfactory" because they also contained increased levels of allergy-inducing preservatives. When it comes to ink, parents should make sure that children do not paint themselves with it over large areas. If you do, it's best to wash off the ink quickly.