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Are some sex toy materials harmful?
Dear Sex Doc,
I read on your website that some sex toys can be harmful to the body. Can you explain this? I’m a little worried because I have a jelly vibrator that I use occassionally.
Perplexed About Plastic Penetrators
Dear Perplexed About Plastic Penetrators,
Sorry PAPP, but if you only ‘occassionally’ use it, why are you so concerned? It is perfectly natural and normal to use sex toys during solo sex or sex with a partner. So PAPP, don’t be embarrassed about your little battery operated boyfriend.
What you need to be concerned about is the fact that your little friend is made from jelly.
You see PAPP, the sex toy industry is largely unregulated. They sell sex toys as novelty items so they do not need to adhere to certain regulations. Unfortunately, most North Americans who purchase sex toys are not aware that these toys can be harmful.
Besides the obvious adverse affects of poorly made sex toys such as sharp seams, allergies, decomposition, and bacteria infections due to porous toys, the most concerning issue is with off-gasing pthalates. Pthalates are a family of very common chemicals used in a variety of products, from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), children’s toys, and sex toys made from jelly.
Pthalates are added to plastic (usually PVC) to increase their flexibility. Unfortunately, over time, the pthalates added slowly ‘leak’ out in a process called off-gasing. They generally release lead and cadmium, which can be absorbed into the vagina or rectum.
In 2001, the popular German magazine, Stern, hired toxicologists to determine the safety of certain sex toy materials. They were alarmed at the high concentrations of pthalates, which were 100 times the acceptable European standard. The toxicologists warned that sex toys containing pthalates (ie. anything initially made from PVC) would be absorbed into the mucous membrane of the vagina and rectum and could lead to liver and kidney damage.
In 2006, Greenpeace Netherlands commissioned a study, which found seven out of eight vibrators and dildos tested contained pthalates in concentrations varying from 24 to 51 percent. Besides the effects mentioned above, the experts from this study indicate that vaginal or rectal exposure to these chemicals can harm hormone production and damage reproduction. They also indicated that sex toys containing pthalates might lead to cancer.
Now PAPP, I don’t mean to scare you. If you really do use your jello vibe ‘occassionally’ you’re probably fine. But, you and anyone else out there who has a bad sex toy should throw it away and replace it. However, if your toy gets you off like nothing else, you could always put a condom over it to keep the bad stuff out.
When purchasing an insertable sex toy you should make sure it is a good one made of silicone or elastomer. So PAPP, a good motto to follow when it comes to sex toys is, “if it smells bad, don’t buy it!”
For more information about the safety of sex toys, check out Forever Pleasure’s Ultimate Sex Toy Guide.
Best regards,Dr. Brian Parker
This article was published on Saturday 23 December, 2006.
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