By Juliette Tang
There's a big, hard, and urgent reason to use eco-friendly sex toys, and it's not just to get off. If you haven't ever thought about what's harboring in the industrial-grade plastic of that favorite vibrator, now is probably a good time to start doing some research.
The majority of vibrators, dildos, sex beads, and blow-up dolls contain plastic, and most of that plastic is treated with one or more phthalates, a family of chemical compounds that is added to plastics in order to make them more flexible. If you use a bendable dildo that feels soft of pliable to the touch, it most likely contains a giant load, if you will, of phthalates. Because the presence of phthalates have been known to induce birth defects, change hormone levels, and cause liver and testicular damage in people and animals, phthalates used in childrens' toys and animal toys are subjected to federal government regulations.
The government has no such regulations on the use of phthalates - or many other chemicals for that matter - in sex toys.
Furthermore, because adult toys are labeled as a "novelty" toy, the government does not require toy companies to list ingredients - so there is no way of finding out what's in them unless they're sent to a laboratory. The environmental organization Greenpeace, however, did send some popular sex toys to be tested, and it was found that they contained a level of phthalates that the organization considered dangerous to public health. Non-profit groups like the Coalition Against Toxic Toys, or CATT, have made it a goal to inforced standards on the adult toy industry to make it more responsible to consumers. As more and more studies are released on sex toys, it becomes increasingly obvious that these toys ought to be subject to health regulations. Moreover, these toys are generally made with cheap plastics in overseas factories (about 70 percent of sex toys are made in China), and in addition to health concerns, the unregulated production of plastic toys introduces a host of other problems worth addressing, including issues of fair trade and environmental sustainability.
If you're skeptical, it's understandable. There's plenty of fearmongering and hyperparanoia as reports are daily released about the newest, deadliest, poisonous things, whether they be Q-tips or soybeans, so as a culture we've become somewhat desentitized to these daily threats. But if you don't believe me, check out the plethora of literature out there detailing some very real dangers. In fact, phthalates are such a known danger, that California was the first state to ban phthalates from children's toys. California Assembly Bill 1108 was passed in 2007, and you can read the exact wording here.
As sex toys are exposed to heat, friction, and liquids with use, phthalates can be leeched off the toys into the human body. And as most sex toys are actually inserted into our bodies, the likelihood of transmitting these chemicals into our bodies becomes a real one. Phthalate molecules aren't chemically bound to the molecules of the plastics on your sex toys, so given enough use, they can break free from the sex toys, evidenced by how rubberized or jelly sex toy deteriorate with repeated use. The real long-term health risks of phthalates is unknown because we can't (with good reason) actually do human testing when we suspect that the thing being tested could, in fact, be dangerous. But there's a lot of research that supports the hypothesis that phthalates are toxic to people, and the mere fact that a suspicion exists should tempt consumers to take precautions and consider a safer route.
Many adult toy retailers, like San Francisco favorite Good Vibrations, are phasing out toys containing phthalates. Also, make sure to check out stores that cater to environmentally-conscious clientele, like Earth Erotics, which sells "natural green sex toys, environmentally friendly bedroom ambiance, and organic cotton linens".To be a more educated consumer, ask store representatives for ingredients or details before buying a toy, and if information isn't readily available, look online first or buy a different product.
If you plan to transition to a phthalate-free sex life, the following are some things you might want to know: silicone is a great substitute for jelly or rubbery sex toys because it doesn't need to be applied with chemicals to get it to feel soft and there's no chemical leeching with repeated use. To be extra safe, use 100% tin or 100% platinum silicone. Borosilicate-based glass, and acrylic or hard plastic, along with natural materials like wood (and yes, hardwood dildos exist) are also body-friendly alternatives to plastics. There are plenty of eco-friendly and body-friendly options among the variety of sex toys out there, including this great "eco-sexy kit" from Babeland. Glass dildos are totally classy and look great too, and Jildo's wooden toys are an "art you love to touch." For vibrational fun, these rechargeable vibrators are 100% phthalate free and extra kind to the environment by wasting no batteries.
Bonus music video about the dangers of toxic sex toys: