Intimate Toys with a Very Un-Intimate Toxin
Ah, that new sex toy smell! No, wait . . . Your toy smells??
Renee and I have been buying sex toys for years, but we didn’t learn about the dangers of phthalates (pronunced “THAL-ates”) and other toxins until this year. If you are new to the sex toy market or haven’t heard of the dangers of phthalates and other harmful materials which are often used in the manufacturing process of sex toys, please read on. And if you have any jelly-like toys, please do yourself a HUGE favor and stop using them.
We had assumed (incorrectly) that there was some sort of government oversight or regulation for sex toys to protect consumers. Nope. There’s nada. Zip. Zilch. If a sex toy manufacturer wants to soften their PVC (polyvinyl chlorides) with phthalates (a very controversial chemical that softens plastics but later “gasses out”), they can do so. If a manufacturer wants to use cadmium or another heavy metal (e.g., arsenic, antimony, lead) to treat their plastic even though those heavy metals are known carcinogens, they can do so. It’s quite frightening.
The leaching of phthalates has been shown to be hazardous in numerous ways (see this link to view a list of articles). To summarize though, large doses of phthalates have been linked to hormonal disruption, reproductive organ damage, liver damage, kidney damage, and liver cancer. Unfortunately, the sex toy market is inundated with unsafe sex toys because it is far cheaper to make toys using unsafe practices and materials than it is to do the right thing.
When we think about these toys being used in our most intimate and sensitive areas of our bodies, it can really make you shudder. If you have ever experienced any skin irritation, rashes, burning or itching after the use of a sex toy, do some research on that particular toy to try and determine what it was made of. But beware, many manufacturers and distributors want to keep consumers in the dark because millions of dollars of profit are at stake. (Curious to see a picture of jelly toys that have melted on their own? The Smitten Kitten has a “jar of doom”.).
Another unsafe aspect to all of this is that plastics that have been softened with phthalates are generally porous. These pores are not visible to the naked eye but they will easily harbor bacteria which can remain even after cleaning the toy with soap and water, and thus their reuse can re-infect the toy’s owner. Imagine fighting a bacterial infection in your vagina and then blaming your partner when in reality, your sex toy is to blame. Ouch.
Studies on exposure to phthalates have been linked to harmful reproductive issues (abnormal genital development especially in boys) and increased risk of breast cancer. Heat can also accelerate the leaching of harmful gases and/or cause the breakdown of plastics. For more on that, see this video from Jennifer Pritchet as she shares her very interesting story of melted jelly toys and her journey in becoming an advocate for safety:
For a quick overview of the issue, Amy Whitaker gave a good 5 minute talk on the topic:
We are grateful to our fellow bloggers for informing us and raising awareness on this issue. Special thanks to Dangerous Lilly who has contributed a great deal of important information in this area.
To read about safe sex toys and safe materials, please click here.