The Safety Reason Behind Those Holey Pen Caps

Because there are everyday habits that can cause us harm, we don’t always notice the tiny aspects of things that help us stay safe. Among them are grooves on a highway, automatic shut-off irons, and pen caps.

What? Pen caps, you say? Why yes, believe it or not, there’s a built-in safety feature on pen caps. Since pens are so common we barely take the time to study their structure. Back in the early 1990s, French pen maker Bic redesigned their pen caps with a special purpose in mind.

Have you ever noticed those tiny holes in the tops of the pen caps? Or were you too busy chewing on them to realize they were there? Well, one of the reasons Bic added them to their design was to prevent ink leaks. Punctures in the pen caps help to stabilize air pressure so the ink can flow freely. But more importantly, they’re there to prevent choking and suffocation.

Accidents happen, and Bic considered the risks of their pen caps being potential hazards. Children and adults accidentally ingesting the caps can easily turn into a life and death situation. The holes create a way to allow for airflow (though limited) in the throat. Serving as tiny vents, they help to reduce the risk of choking.

On Bic’s company website, they provide an explanation of the design under the FAQ section:

“In addition to help prevent the pen from leaking, all our BIC® caps comply with international safety standards that attempt to minimize the risk of children accidentally inhaling pen caps. Some of these vented caps, like that used for the BIC® Cristal®, has a little hole in the top to comply with the existing safety standards.”

Other pen manufacturers have followed suit over the years, adding small perforations in the tops of their pens too. According to the video below from Business Insider, there were 10,000 cases of ingested pen parts reported between 2000 and 2010. School age kids make up a large percentage of the group who have swallowing accidents.

For some, chewing on pens and pencils is common when bored or anxious. Without paying attention – oops – accidental gulping can occur. As you know, little busybodies are prone to picking up small objects and putting them in their mouths, noses, and ears. Chicago’s Rush Hospital states that pen pieces account for a quarter of choking incidents in children.

If one of these unfortunate accidents were to happen, the holes should enable just enough air to flow in until medical help arrives – or at least until someone can perform the Heimlich maneuver. Bic’s pioneering idea shows that they knew chewing was a regular habit and choking an expected risk. Bravo to them!

Lots of folks have a habit of munching on the plastic parts of pen caps. But the next time you’re tempted to chew on one out of habit, don’t chance an accidental swallowing. Did you know about this little safety feature on pens? Have you had any close calls with pen cap chewing incidents? Share with us in the comments!