Safe Sex Now Includes Sex Toys: Avoid Toxins In Your Products


Learn what toxins may be lurking in your lubricant or sex toys and how to find safe products to use.

Sexual products have become common place in many adults' bedrooms these days. With a large variety of personal lubricants and sex toys from which to choose, it seems that consumers have a great deal of exciting choices. When it comes to spicing things up in the bedroom and even outside of it.

However, what many consumers are in the dark about is the toxins that can be found in many of these sexual products. Most people assume that because they are sold in the U.S., they are completely nontoxic. Surely there are federal regulations that make sure that they are safe for internal use right? Wrong, it unfortunately is not always the case.

Classification as novelty vs. medical device

Sex toys are classified as "novelties" and are thereby not regulated when it comes to their safety for sexual use. However, before one begins to think that very strict regulation is the answer, let's look at why adult "novelties" are classified as "novelties" in the first place. Currently, the only other option is to have the sexual product classified as a medical device. This requires a great deal of funding, testing and review before it is allowed on the market. Having a sex toy classified in this way would make it cost so much money that most people would not be able to afford them. This is why sex toy manufacturers have not argued with the classification of "novelty" as it allows sex toys to be offered at reasonable prices.

What toxins are in sexual products?

The majority of sex toys are made in China and most adult novelty manufacturers refrain from labeling the materials used to make sex toys. As a result, it is challenging for consumers to know what is actually in them. Unfortunately, many sex toys are still made with toxins such as phthalates, mercury, lead, chromates, sulfides, parabens and more. Because these sexual products are used internally, they can easily gain access to the blood stream making the need for these products to be nontoxic rather important. Health issues that may occur from such toxins are: liver damage, cancer, ADHD, reduced sperm count, birth defects and insulin resistance, just to name a few.

One of the toxins of concern is phthalates. These are chemicals that make plastics flexible and more durable. Because phthalates are molecules that are not chemically bound to plastics, they can break free causing the breakdown of rubber and jelly sex toys over time. Phthalates were banned in 1999 from being used in the production of children's toys in the U.S. The health risks they posed to children playing with these toys were very high especially because of the possibility of putting such products in their mouths.

Clearly, phthalates should also be banned in sexual products. They too are often used internally making exposure to them potentially dangerous to one's health. Examples of health risks from exposure to phthalates are headaches, respiratory irritation, liver damage, nausea as well as damage to the central nervous system and kidneys. As of today, phthalates are still allowed in the production of sex toys and many people are regularly exposed to them which most certainly should raise concerns.

Another example of potential toxins are parabens. These are found in a large number of personal lubricants on the market today including those used by physicians for medical exams. Popular, due to their preservative effects, parabens extend product shelf-life and can easily be found on listed ingredients listed as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and others. Multiple international studies have indicated that parabens may contribute to an increase in allergies, altered estrogen levels in females, decreased sperm count in males, skin cancer and disruption in normal fetal development.

An investigation into sex toy retailers

In 2009, the National Association for the Advancement of Science and Art in Sexuality ( did an informal investigation. Random sex toy retailers and sex toy party representatives were contacted and asked specific safety questions about products that were known to contain phthalates or parabens. In a vast majority of the representatives questioned, the sales clerk provided inaccurate information declaring that the products in question were free of phthalates or parabens, when they were not. Therefore, it is alarming that even educated consumers, who know enough to ask whether a sexual product they are buying is free of such toxins, may be given misinformation.

On the other side of the spectrum, some consumers are under the illusion of sex toy myths. For example, many consumers that have read false information online are under the impression that all sex toys made of elastomers such as "jelly sex toys," contain toxic phthalates. Others believe that if a sex toy has a plastic scent (referred to as that "new shower curtain smell") are harmful.

Neither is true. Eastomers do not always contain phthalates and the smell factor does not hold water. Phthalates do not have a scent so they are undetectable to the human nose.

So what's the good news?

With increased awareness of such toxins, more and more sex toy manufacturers are beginning to catch on. Safe sex toys and a profitable business are mutually attainable goals. Educated consumers have increased requests for safe sexual products and have made a big impact in the adult novelty industry by encouraging manufacturers to produce nontoxic options. There are safer and higher performing sexual products available more than ever before and it is because of increased education on this topic as well as consumer demand.

That is why it is important to share this information so that awareness regarding this issue can continue to spread. It is essential that ncreased pressure be put on sex toy manufacturers to provide safer sexual products along with disclosure of the materials used to make them.

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