Emotional pain and heartache are risks we often take to experience the thrill of love and sex. Recent findings show that more than just your tender heart may be on the line, however. Dubious prophylactics and dangerous chemicals dot today's sexual landscape, threatening your physical health as well.
1. Counterfeit Condoms
Even if you don't have a latex allergy, condoms could pose a problem if they are the counterfeit ones currently being manufactured in China and sold here in the United States. (Some are even falsely labeled "Trojan brand.") The counterfeits are not guaranteed to protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, and because some of them are lubricated with vegetable oil, which breaks down latex, they may even contribute to a higher rate of disease transmission. Be careful when you inspect condoms. If the package is unsealed, there is a highly perfumed smell or the lubrication feels very oily, don't have sex until you can find a reliable condom.
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2. Vaporous Vibes
Phthalates, compounds added to plastics to make them softer, have been linked to birth defects. They're in your dry-cleaning bags, household items and -- it turns out -- maybe even your vibrator. Because we may absorb phthalates through the skin or mucus membranes, it's a good idea to steer clear of them in your sex toys.
"Silicone is the best material to look for in a vibrator or dildo," says Dr. Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations in San Francisco. "It is nonporous so it stays cleaner, it warms to the body temperature and it doesn't contain phthalates."
Some shops, such as Good Vibrations and Smitten Kitten, sell only products produced without phthalates. Queen also recommends cleaning the objects with a specific sex toy cleaner, dish soap or lathered-up bar soap. Avoid antibacterial soaps that contain triclosan, which is unnecessary and possibly unsafe, and be sure to thoroughly rinse off all soap residue. AOL Health: This Smell Turns Men On
3. Lurking Latex
If you develop a rash; experience itchy, watery eyes; or have trouble breathing when you're around latex products, such as condoms or dental dams, you may have a latex sensitivity or even an allergy. Even if you don't have one now, you could develop one repeated exposure. If you notice these symptoms, tell your doctor. And if you are sensitive, the best thing to do is simply avoid the material. Almost everything made of latex is available in nonlatex varieties.
4. Jeopardizing Gels
Lubricating agents are another item that may cause an unpleasant reaction. This is usually a matter of individual response, so if you notice itching or a rash, simply try another lube, recommends Queen. Do steer clear, she says, of lubes containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which may actually increase risk of HIV transmission. Try the shops mentioned above for products that are free of preservatives.