Lynnea Dally | The Bottom Line
Phthalates, a family of chemical rubber softeners used in many sex toys, might be dangerous to your health. Phthalates are generally used in a variety of things, from plastic shower curtains to blood bags and car dashboards. Typically anything that smells “plasticy” has phthalates. While people are regularly exposed to phthalates, we interact with few of these other products in quite the same, intimate way as sex toys.
Phthalates are controversial because they are considered a “probable human carcinogen,” by FDA. In high doses they cause cancer in rats and in low doses still cause serious problems. Exposure to the chemical interfered with rat genital development and fetal development, which produces stillborn rats. In humans, there has been some evidence that phthalates interfere with sperm production and possibly infant genital development. While human studies are not currently as comprehensive as the animal studies, safety groups such as the FDA and Greenpeace warn that these chemicals present a possible health risk to humans.
In 2004 the European Union banned phthalates in products intended for infants, and in America there are patches of legislation protecting infants against phthalates, such as California’s toxic toy ban bill passed by Governor Schwarzenegger this past year.
According to Greenpeace representative Bart van Opzeeland “It’s incredible that this substance can still be used in toys for adults. The last few years we’ve tested a lot of products but never before did we find such high concentrations.” So if kid’s toys are being protected, why aren’t adult toys protected? After all, kids put their toys in their mouths, and adults put their toys in more places than that. There’s a few reasons. First of all, the sex toy industry is loosely regulated. Sex toys are legally labeled as “novelty” toys, meaning that they’re intended as a gag gift and not actual use. This means there’s no government-sponsored research into whether the products are safe for human use. Thanks to the scads of embarrassed people buying these presents “as gifts” the industry continues gets away with easy-to-use but dangerous materials.
Furthermore, few customers, interest groups, and legislators want to get labeled as a “healthy sex toy advocate” so few people step up. Finally, the overall problem is not well known in America. People never suspected that their dildo, vibrator, cock ring or fake vagina could have been toxic.
So what can you do about it? Check to make sure that your products are phthalate-free, especially before you purchase. Look for a label that says phthalate-free and avoid rubber jelly products that do not list their contents. Hard plastic products are probably safe and silicone, glass, metal and wood are completely phthalate-free. There are many online sex toy stores that offer phthalate-free sections of their store. Look over the toys you have now: do they jiggle? Smell like plastic? You might want to consider trading up. Get rid of your old toys in an environmentally safe way by using a sex toy recycling program.