Sex Toys and Phthalates
Phthalates have made headlines because of their alleged effects on your health.
From rumours that they'll make you go blind (where have we heard that one before...) to scary stories about phthalates affecting your libido, we've sorted the fact from the fiction to help you reach an informed decision about your choice of sex toy material.
First things first: Don't panic! Phthalates may sound scary but it's important to not get overwhelmed by a sense of hysteria.
We here at Lovehoney do our best to tell you exactly what every toy that we sell is made of and whether it is free of latex or phthalates. All our sex toys are safe, and we would never sell anything that could be detrimental to your sexual health. If you're in doubt, please ask us by using the question form on every product page.
So sit back, relax and let us give you the lowdown on phthalates and sex toy materials.
What are phthalates?
Pronounced 'thalates' (the 'ph' is silent), phthalates are colorless oil-like chemicals that can make everything from vinyl to nail varnish more flexible, depending on the size of the molecules. They are also present in children's toys to make them more sturdy when under pressure from biting or cracking.
Between 1998 and 2004 there were numerous reports on the alleged health effects caused by phthalates. Some health activists are currently pushing for products such as toys and plastic food packaging containing phthalates to come under scrutiny and possibly carry stickers to advise consumers that phthalates are present in the product they are buying.
Some people even called for women to stop wearing nail varnish, just in case!
How phthalates affect your sex toys
But what does this have to do with your sex toy, we hear you ask? Well, jelly sex toys and some realistic feel sex toys contain phthalates, and you need to know it's there so you can make an informed buying decision.
If you've read some of the more lurid headlines, you could be forgiven for being worried.
A study carried out by German chemist Hans Ulrich Krieg in 2000 found that some sex toys available in Europe included phthalate concentrations up to 243,000 parts per million - a number characterized as "off the charts" by Davis Baltz of the health advocacy group Commonweal.
Baltz continued by saying that the danger with some sex toys is that the extended shelf life could accelerate a 'leaching' effect, in which the phthalates are drawn out, though he had no evidence for it.
And phthalates have been banned for use in children's toys in the EU, so doesn't that mean they're evil? Not quite.
Don't let the facts spoil a good story
When you look at the research behind the headlines, it's not quite that simple - or scary!
Researchers at the Statistical Assessment Service of George Mason University, Washington have a level-headed review of research in phthalates, describing the issue as an "activist-driven health scare".
The EU's Institute for Health and Consumer Protection has said that "The end products containing [phthalates] (clothes, building materials, toys and baby equipment) and the sources of exposure (car and public transport interiors, food and food packaging) are unlikely to pose a risk for consumers (adults, infants and newborns) following inhalation, skin contact and ingestion."
The effects of phthalates have only been linked to birth defects in animals in very small samples, and nothing detrimental in humans. In fact, a report carried out by the US Center For Disease Control in January 2003, showed that out of 2,500 subjects tested the average exposure to the phthalate DPB was 100 times lower than the recommended safety levels.
The CDC report demonstrates that there is no new evidence to suggest there are any direct links between the phthalates present in jelly or Cyberskin sex toys and any detrimental health effects on humans. If anything, the recently published reports and continued research have reassured the public since the first false alarm over phthalate levels in women over child-bearing age in 2000.
The science of sex toy testing
A Greenpeace Netherlands report in 2007 brought attention back to the issue, and prompted us to send one of our own toys for testing. To see what happened, click here.
How phthalates affect you
The risk of contracting a health defect due to phthalates in some sex toys is much less than the risk of contracting an infection from an unwashed sex toy, an STI from a shared sex toy or a heart attack brought on by excitement through using a sex toy.
Jelly sex toys, or any sex toys that contain phthalates, are safe to buy and use.
If you're concerned, it's sensible to make sure that each time you use one of these products you use a condom over the top of it. That way, you can give yourself peace of mind, protect yourself from STIs and still enjoy your favourite sex toy.
And if you're still concerned, buy a sex toy made from silicone, elastomer, skin-safe rubber, glass or metal for ultimate peace of mind.
We'll keep an eye on the situation and will keep you informed and we'll do our best to make our product descriptions as detailed as possible so you know what you're buying.