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Tips for toy shopping: Toxic toys?

May 27, 2008

A lovely Phthalate-free silicone toy by Tantus!

image from – folks that only sell phthalate-free high quality silicone toys that they make themselves!

As early as 2005, perhaps earlier, sexuality educators began suggesting the we cover our insertable toys with condoms in order to avoid toxic chemicals. If you haven’t yet heard, word on the net (and now the news) is that cheap jelly rubber and cyberskin type toys are made from eco-nasty PVCs softened with phthalates. These tricky to spell chemicals are related to that shower curtain stink that comes from cheaper dildos and vibes, and are also reported to leak toxins into our bodies that put us at risk for cancer, asthma and reproductive issues (in men, no less). German researchers sounded the alarm back in 2000 when they discovered some shockingly high levels of toxic chemical leakage in popular erotic aids. This stuff is bad enough that several countries (including the US) have put heavy restrictions on its use in child toys, but not in our adult bodies. Mind you, this is on top of other concerns about toys made of this stuff, including their potential to irritate delicate skin and the fact that their porous nature makes them impossible to get clean. That’s right, they’re often harboring bacteria even after a good scrub. However, jelly rubber is cheap and in the not-so-distant past consumers were to ashamed to expect better from an adult industry dominated by a novelty item mindset.

More after the jump.

So what is a savvy, health and eco conscious adult toy shopper to do? Thankfully, as awareness has spread, safer options have increased. Many better online sex boutiques mark their phthalate-free toys, and some smut stores (you know, the kind of adult store with all the dark windows and very questionable bathrooms) can also offer information on ingredients. Some of the best venders now refuse to market any toys suspected of being toxic, which is a wonderful decision. Until we get some good safety regulation in this area, look for toys that specifically state that they are made of nontoxic ingredients and venders who care about our health by refusing to stock potentially dangerous items. Ah yes, and keep yourself educated.

Toy materials believed to be nontoxic:

Some soft and hard plastics, high grade silicone, metal, rock (like marble), pyrex-style glass, and high quality treated wood products.

Always ask if toys are safe. If your vender doesn’t know then it is time to switch venders! You can start with the growing list of sexuality boutiques in the link list on the right for online shopping. Ruth also reviews sexuality boutiques and smut shops she has visited in person on our profile.

More information:

Womyn’sWare article evaluating the safety of silicone toys

Grist article on body and eco friendly toy info – highly recommended’s article by C. Silverberg weighing the risks and summarizing research

Another article, also by Silverberg, for those with allergies and sensitivities

Village Voice article by the delightful sexpert Tristan Taormino on Pthalates in sex toys


Learn more about the best toys at one of Exploring Intimacy’s workshops in Atlanta this summer!

Or, drop us a question and we might answer it on our blog and include it in a podcast.

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