1. Sex Toys and Phthalates

    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?

    Ultra 7 Wonders VibratorPronounced '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".

    Phthalate testingThe European Union's Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) has said that phthalates did not pose an immediate or serious risk.

    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

    Realistic Dildo 6 Inch With Suction CupThere is no hard scientific data available at present to show that phthalates in sex toys pose a risk to human health.

    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.

    Comments (8)

    • Fay: June 07, 2008 20:29
      I can see that there was a ton of hype over phthalates (and to be honest, I was highly doubtful I could get cancer from a sex toy to begin with). That said, I have bought a handful of cheap (and not so cheap) jelly toys (from different manufacturers) over the years. Some were perfect, but I came across two that induced what I can only describe as a chemical burn. The worst offender left me with a burning feeling for up to an hour after short use (and because of the design, the condom tended to break after a few minutes). To me, anything that gives me a chemical burn cannot be remotely safe or fun. So what caused it if not phthalate leaching?
    • Richard: June 09, 2008 10:42
      Crikey, that doesn't sound good. Without seeing the products, it's impossible to say what would cause a chemical burn.

      Certainly, there was less concern about product quality 5 or 10 years ago than there is now.

      It could have been a combination of nasties in the products you had, rather than specifically being phthalates.

      You won't have that problem with anything you buy from LoveHoney.

      BTW, if you fancy reading a scientific discussion of the issues surrounding phthalates, there's a good article here...

    • liz: January 24, 2009 14:16
      I would be very surprised if I heard someone deloping cancer from use of sex toys - but due to the combinaton of different cancerogenous substances we are all exposed to in our everyday lives, I would never consider using a sextoy containing phthalates. Just as I strictly limit my intake of foods containing trans fats, colorings, perservatives and other additives, I make sure I understand the contents of the skin care products I use and am ware of the building materials used in my home - and so on.
      I don't think I will develop cancer and/or heart desease from the paint on my walls, the use of my jelly sex toys or the trans fats in my food. It's just that being exposed to all these substances that eventually add up, at the same time makes me think - No, I'd rather be on the safe side. And therefore I will continue to make "on the safe side choices" for my health. This includes no smoking, no excessive drinking, natural foods, moderate exercise, managing stress levels - and to never use sex toys containing phthalates.

    • MagusAugury: June 21, 2011 15:19
      We have experienced this leeching from sex toys that have phthalates, also the burning sensation for hours.

      Products that contain phthalates are not safe, we don't need scientists to give us the thumbs up, we have experienced it.

      We will never use products that contain phthalates, for your own safety and health you shouldn't either.

    • Valibal: January 08, 2012 12:27
      I was concerned I wasn't normal. I bought a black rubber dildo and was planning to enjoy some anal fun with it. I have tried to use it a few times only to experience a really bad burning sensation as soon as I insert it. Having just looked online for an answer to my problem it seems this is the cause. I won't be using it anymore and will look for a replacement without phthalate in it. Lots of people seem to experience the same. These chemicals should be banned in sex toys.
    • Bill Soper: March 11, 2013 20:51
      Very impressed with the information given here. Have very limited experience in this field, but have never before observed such dedication at keeping a public informed, even if the info was contrary to business interests.
      I like that, and won't forget.
    • Claudia: July 13, 2014 13:28
      To me it sounds like you are saying phthalates are not dangerous, but if we are worried to get a silicone or similar dildo. The problem with this is, phthalates are actually dangerous and you are possibly lying about whether your products include them or not. The Red Rider strap on dildo and harness that you sell has been said to contain phthalates, while you say it does not. Rubber is said to have toxic chemicals, and you say it is skin safe.
      Who are we supposed to believe? It is all very confusing and we need proper laws on manufacturing sex toys.
    • Amy Dodd: August 24, 2014 18:56
      While I understand that you can merely repeat what is said on the box, today while going through our massive collection of sex toys, we decided to do a burn test on all of the silicone ones to see how much crap they contained.

      It's common knowledge now that silicone which is pure (food/platinum grade) should not burn, and should only leave a grey ash residue. Anything else is a concoction of foul plasticiser residue which is responsible for some of the horrible odours sex toys have, and also for things ranging from headaches to stomachs cramps. I know this article was written in 2008, but it really needs updating as knowledge has moved on a lot since then, and you have an ethical responsibility to properly inform your customers. Adding burn test results to your product pages may also be worth doing, as I, and probably many others only want to put food grade silicone in my orifices.

      What we found was disturbing. We've bought silicone sex toys from lovehoney, Sh!, and New York Toy Collective.

      The burn test for Sh! and NYTC both showed pure silicone with no reactive additives.

      ALL of our Lovehoney sex toys burnt like firework fountains, and released plumes of acrid smoke. Some of them were already discoloured with black spots, and others were showing signs of mould.

      We care a great deal about our sexual health, and our health in general, so it's safe to say that armed with this information, we won't be buying from you guys any more, and will be spending the extra money on products which are known to be manufactured with our safety in mind.

      For anyone else wondering, there's a great deal of useful information about safe sex toy manufacturers and materials here: http://dangerouslilly.com/toxictoys/