Chalk is a form of limestone. Chalk poisoning occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally swallows chalk.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Chalk is generally considered to be nonpoisonous, but it can cause problems if large amounts are swallowed.
Chalk is found in:
- Billiard chalk (magnesium carbonate)
- Blackboard and artist's chalk (gypsum)
- Tailor's chalk (talc)
Note: This list may not include all uses of chalk.
Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (and ingredients and strength, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
A visit to the emergency room, however, may not be needed.
How well the person does depends on the amount of chalk swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. People with kidney disease may be more affected if a very large amount of chalk is ingested. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Chalk is considered a fairly nonpoisonous substance, so recovery is likely.
Chalk poisoning; Chalk - swallowing
American Academy of Pediatrics. Swallowed harmless substance. www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/symptom-checker/Pages/symptomviewer.aspx?symptom=Swallowed+Harmless+Substance. Accessed November 4, 2019.
Katzman DK, Kearney SA, Becker AE. Feeding and eating disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 9.
Review Date 9/26/2019
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.