What are Toxic Toys?

Monday, Aug 5, 2013


In:Health & Safety, News

At Dynamo, we’re pretty wild about our product selection. We’re proud to tell folks that our toys are non-toxic, phthalate-free, and body-safe. But what does that mean?

Not all toys are created equal
Sex toys are big business. Worldwide, adult novelties comprise a $15 billion industry. You’d think, given the size of that industry, and the intimate manner in which the products are used, there would be some fairly heavy health and safety standards in place. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The sex toy industry is largely unregulated: there is no one monitoring how sex toys are manufactured, what goes into them, or whether claims made on their packaging are truthful. As a result, most manufacturers cut corners in production, using potentially hazardous chemicals like phthalates in their toys to lower cost and increase profits.

Toxic Toys
What are phthalates?
Phthalates (pronounced “THALE-ates”) are a family of chemicals used to make hard plastics soft and flexible. Derived from phthalic acid, they are often used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They can be found in a wide range of products, from plastic packaging to floor tiles to perfume. Pthalates are released into the environment very easily. This is because there is no covalent bond between the phthalates and the plastics in which they are mixed. As plastics age and break down, phthalate release accelerates.

Because they are inexpensive and easy to use, they are also very common in sex toy manufacturing–especially soft or jelly toys.

Why should I avoid them?
Phthalates have been linked to a number of health hazards, including cancer and birth defects. More and more researchers now agree that they have toxic effects — both directly to individuals and indirectly to the environment. The European Union banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys in 1998; the United States followed suit in 2009.

Beyond potential long-term health risks, sex toys laden with phthalates and other harmful materials (often called “toxic sex toys” by conscientious retailers) can prove troublesome and uncomfortable. Some people report a painful sensation when using them — this can range from a mild annoyance to a chemical burn. And because they are not chemically stable, toxic toys often end up making a mess — leaking pigment all over nightstand drawers, sticking to other toys, or just plain melting.

How do I know if my toy contains phthalates?
Phthalates are common in toys made of “jelly,” PVC/vinyl, rubber, and “realskin” or “cyberskin.” If your goal is to avoid phthalates, you should stay away from toys made of these materials. Some manufacturers will still label these toys “phthalate-free,” as it has now become a popular buzzword. Others claim their soft toys are silicone (implying that they do not contain any other chemicals). But remember, the novelty industry is unregulated. They are under no obligation to tell the truth.

And don’t forget to follow your nose: toys containing phthalates often have a strong “chemical” smell: many people compare it to that of a new shower curtain. This is the toy off-gassing and breaking down. Some companies attempt to cover up that smell with even more artificial scents (ever seen a cherry-scented vibrator?). An oily film on the toy is another good indicator of phthalate presence.
Vibratex Rabbit Habit
But I love my Jelly Toys!

If you love the feel of jelly, try a toy made of elastomer! Elastomer is body-safe and can effectively mimic the soft, squishy texture of jelly. Though they don’t contain phthalates or latex, elastomer toys are porous, which means they can never be completely cleaned. Be sure to cover an elastomer toy with a condom if you plan to use it with multiple partners or in multiple orifices. The Vibratex Rabbit Habit is a very popular vibrator covered in elastomer. Tenga’s mastubration sleeves, like the Flip Hole and Tenga Eggs are also elastomer.

Toys that are truly 100% silicone are another great option if you’re planning to replace a jelly toy. Silicone toys can be hard or soft, but often have at least a little give. Tantus makes wonderful, high-quality silicone dildos. Cush is fantastic dual-density toy: firm on the inside, squishy on the outside.

And of course, there are several other body-safe toy materials to try — metal, glass, and hard plastic (ABS) are all phthalate-free, non-porous options!

Want to know more about toxic sex toys, and the folks who are trying to put a stop to them? Check out these links:

The Coalition Against Toxic Toys
Dangerous Lilly’s 411 on Toxic Toys (with a list of reputable manufacturers)