• Art Markers come in a variety of colors, often with a wide chisel edge and fine point tip. Colorless blenders used for mixing color are sold alongside art markers.


  • Markers are made of plastics including polypropylene, PET, and nylon, and contain ink composed of water, dyes and alcohol solvents.1


  • Plastics are derived from petroleum. Waste ink from manufacturing is absorbed and disposed of as a solid through combustion or landfilling. 2, 3

Human Health

  • Exposure to ink solvents through skin and inhalation is harmful. Markers containing xylene damage the central nervous system, manifesting in headaches, tremors and memory loss.4 Nonylphenol, an endocrine disrupter that causes reproductive harm and cancer, is also present in some markers.5 Other solvents that irritate the eyes, mucous membranes and the respiratory tract are common.6

Safe Use and Exposure

  • Work in well ventilated areas and use a mask when necessary to avoid breathing in fumes.7 Only use markers with an AP certification of safety, since unlabeled products are liable to contain hazardous components. Do not write on skin, since product safety is only certified for use on normal surfaces. 8

Proper disposal

  • Dispose of in normal trash. If labeled as hazardous dispose in a hazardous waste bin on campus.

Safe Alternatives

  • Use markers labeled with AP certification. Avoid Copic markers,9, 10 Chartpak blacks, cobalt and colorless blender, and Prismacolor metallics, which carry health warnings for the solvents used. Blick and Prismacolor are AP certified but should be used with ventilation to avoid effects to central nervous system and mucous membranes. 9, 11, 12 Before investing in markers, check the product MSDS.


  1. Tombow MSDS
  2. Marker | How Products are Made
  3. Evaluating Paint and Ink Wastes
  4. Xylene: An overview of its health hazards and preventive measures
  5. Nonylphenol | Human Toxome Project
  6. Propylene Glycol
  7. Art and Craft Safety Guide | U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
  9. The Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc.
  10. Copic Marker MSDS
  11. Blick MSDS
  12. Prismacolor MSDS
  13. Chartpak MSDS