How Pens Are Literally Built to Save Lives

May 17th 2016

Taylor Bell

With laptops and smartphones becoming far more common, it's easy to forget about the power of the pen. However, they do have quite the ingenious, and potentially life-saving design.

If you've ever caught yourself chewing on a pen cap, you might have noticed a small hole at the top of the top. You probably haven't given it much thought before, but that very tiny hole can actually save your life.


In 1991 BIC first began to place holes on top of their pen caps as a way to equalize pressure inside the pen so the ink did not spill out, according to the Independent. At the same time, the tiny holes served as a much needed safety feature.

BIC pens

According to a video for Business Insider, between 2000 and 2010 there were more than 10,000 people swallowing parts of pens and pencils. That being said, BIC's pen cap holes were designed to help prevent someone from choking to death. The hole allows air to continue to circulate in case you accidentally swallow a pen cap.

"In addition to helping 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," the company writes on its website. "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."

Pen Cap

According to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death and is one of the leading causes of unintentional death among infants and children, with food, toys, and coins being the primary cause of choking-related deaths among children.

The Independent has even attributed a decrease in choking related deaths to new pen caps.

While redesigning common household objects to prevent choking may seem morbid, it's probably more common than you think. For example, according to Gizmodo, it's the reason why Lego mini figurines have a hole at the top of their heads.

Image of a Leg Man's head