The Science of Sex Toy Phthalates Testing
In response to a recent media scare about levels of phthalates in sex toys, Lovehoney does its own hi-tech lab testing to bring you the safest sex toys!
Further to a scare in 2001 over levels of phthalates in sex toys, a recent Greenpeace Netherlands report has brought attention back to the issue. The earlier scare had its effects - in 2005 the EU banned the use of the phthalate DEHP in children's toys, forcing toy manufacturers to develop alternatives - and the more recent Greenpeace research shows that many sex toys still carry high levels of phthalates.
We've done our own research, both before (in our sex toys and phthalates buyer's guide - which links to other scientific research giving a more balanced view of the dangers of phthalates) and since the Greenpeace report.
While the existing legislation only applies to toys and childcare articles which children are likely to hold in their mouths for long periods of time, we want our customers to be as confident as possible about buying sex toys, so we sent one of our most popular toys to a lab to have it tested for phthalates.
But even we hadn't put it through the kind of wringer it was put through by the laboratory test, which involved chopping up different parts of the toy, weighing them (using at least 5g of each part), then extracting the results using an ICP machine - more details on that below, science fans!
The good news is that the Supersex Mini Rabbit Vibrator registered as N/D (not detected) for 5 of the listed phthalate esters (DBP, BBP, DNOP, DINP and DIDP), and had amounts of under 0.01% by weight for DEHP - well under the maximum allowable limit of 0.1% for plasticised children's toys and childcare articles.
This doesn't mean that we'll be complacent in future, though: we'll be monitoring this debate closely, and will ensure that we continue to bring you only the safest, greenest sex toys.
1 The first stage of the testing process is to sample the product that is going to be tested for phthalates. This means taking a scalpel to the sex toy and slicing off little slivers of the material from its shaft or any part that will come into contact with the body.
The pieces are shown here on pieces of paper for photography purposes.
2 The next part of the test is to weigh the pieces that have been cut off the sex toy. A sample weighing as least 5g is needed in order to carry out the test for phthalates.
3 Each vibrator test piece is placed in a test tube and labelled for reference.
The samples are dissolved and prepared for analysis.
Each tube is then clamped and the test performed on each piece of the sex toy.
We can't tell you exactly what happens next...
4 ...Because the laboratory was deliberately coy about what the test involves in order to protect its trade secrets. We suspect it has something complicated to do with chemicals. From the hand, you can tell the scientists have a sense of humour.
5 This is the ICP machine which is used by the laboratory to extract the test results. ICP stands for Inductively Coupled Plasma spectrometry, a technique used for elemental analysis - basically to find out what things are made of.
6 The test samples in the ICP machine.
ICP spectometry machines can be used for analysing all kinds of materials, not just sex toys.
Answers.com explains in more detail about how a spectrometer works.
When the test is complete, the laboratory compiles a report.
7 The laboratory report details the request that was made by the company the requested the test (Lovehoney) and the tests that were conducted. The test method is explained in brief and the results of the tests are clearly shown in a table. It's just like you were told to do in chemistry lessons at school.
The laboratory also gives comments on the tests that were done. In Lovehoney's report, the comments state that the legislation applies to plasticised toys and childcare articles that can be placed in the mouth by children.
Technically, sex toys fall outside the scope of the legislation, so even though the Supersex Mini Rabbit Vibrator complied with the limits set by the European Commission, the laboratory cannot give a Pass / Fail verdict in its report.
Here is the conclusions page from the report on the Supersex Mini Rabbit Vibrator.