Sex Toys To Avoid: Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and are used in many products such as shower curtains, vinyl flooring, tupperware containers, children’s toys, and sex toys. They’re all around us. The issue with phthalates is that they don’t actually bond to the plastics they are mixed with which causes them to leach into the environment all around us. They get into the food we eat and the air we breathe.

Increased levels of phthalates have been shown to be linked to wheezing, allergies, asthma, autism, organ failure, issues with hormone production, and cancer. A lot of the research on phthalates is in the early stages so scientists aren’t completely sure of what dangers they cause, but there have been links between phthalates and health problems.

The major concern about exposure to phthalates has been that of children because while most of us are exposed to phthalates, we’re not exposed in extremely high doses unless we actually put these chemicals into our bodies. Children tend to put things in their mouths. You can see why this would be an issue for children’s toys, which is why in 2008 congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which banned the manufacturing and selling of children’s toys that contained phthalate concentrations of  more than 0.1%.

But what about products treated with phthalates that are for adults and are put into our bodies like sex toys?

Greenpeace conducted a study in 2006 where they tested 8 sex toys and found that 7 of them contained phthalates in concentrations ranging from 24 to 51 percent.  We’re limiting children’s toys to having less than 0.1% out of fear of what these chemicals could do to their bodies when they chew on them. And yet our sex toys have much higher concentrations and we are putting them in our vaginas, rectums, and mouths.

So how can you protect yourself from these dangerous chemicals? Because of the population’s newly gained awareness of these chemicals, a lot of sex toy companies have stopped using phthalates all together and actually advertise this on their packaging. However, there are still many other dangerous chemicals in sex toys that aren’t receiving as much attention so there are some basic rules you can apply in most cases.

  1. Use sex toys that are made from non-porous, chemically inert materials such as glass, steel, aluminum, ceramic,and 100% pure silicone (many products say they are made from silicone, but are actually a blend of silicone and other materials). Wood that has been treated with a food safe sealant is also usually safe to use.
  2. Plastic toys tend to be cheaper than the above materials so if you want to avoid harmful chemicals try to stick to hard plastics usually listed as ABS.
  3. When you are unsure of what your sex toy is made of or if you do have a toy that probably contains phthalates or other dangerous chemicals use a condom to protect yourself.
  4. Only buy sex toys made by smaller companies that have a reputation for high quality toys. Avoid toys that are made in China and look for toys that are made in the US, Canada, and the European Union. Do your research on a company before buying from them.

Image of jelly vibrator from Wikipedia.

Follow us on twitter @mysexprofessor. You can also follow Garnet Joyce, the author of this post, @GarnetJoyce.

About Garnet Joyce

Garnet Joyce

Queer sex educator starting a new adventure with her wife and two cats.

  • Garnet Joyce

    I’m no chemist so I don’t know the answer to your question. I think that more studies need to be done. However, that being said, the vagina is an acidic place which, if your aunt is correct, would mean vaginal secretions may cause more leaching.