Would it shock you to learn that something as intimate as your vibrator is largely unregulated for safety? It should.
Have you ever bought a cheap jelly toy, maybe as a gag gift, and found it had a foul chemical smell and an almost greasy coating? That’s the result of phthalates. You might recognize the word from the “phthalate-free” product descriptions on high-end toys, like the ones in our shop, but what are phthalates and why should you keep them far, far away from your nether regions?
What are phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase flexibility in plastic and vinyl. Adding a large amount to plastics results in a stretchy translucent substance, like those sticky hands sold in gum ball machines or cheap jelly sex toys. In smaller quantities it’s found in tons of flexible plastic goods. When you tear open the packaging on a cheap plastic shower curtain, that stale, noxious smell is the phthalates.
Are they actually dangerous?
The reason that sex toys are largely unregulated by the FDA or comparable organizations is because they are mostly categorized as “novelty items”, meaning that companies making cheap toys claim they never intended for you to actually use them internally. By calling their products novelties or gag gifts, they can get away with using ingredients that haven’t had sufficient testing. Very sketchy.
The phthalates that have been tested haven’t exactly gotten rave reviews. The di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate “may affect the development of the male reproductive system”. That doesn’t exactly sound like something you should be putting inside your body.
Some quality toy reviewers have made little science experiments out of several offenders to show how they degrade over time. Stored in a jar for just a couple of months, many of these toys will actually melt into puddles of mystery goop, forming one big chemical blob. Take a peep at Dangerous Lily’s jar after 3 months.😮
So how do you buy safe toys?
When you’re shopping for a new addition to your toy collection, you should be on the lookout for “body-safe” materials, which include:
- Medical grade silicone
- Non-porous organic material
- Surgical steel
- Bodysafe plastics, marked phthalate-free
In order to feel totally confident in the labeling and quality of the toys you’re buying, make sure to only buy directly from reputable retailers or brands. Think you found the brand-name toy you're looking for on Amazon for a fraction of the cost anywhere else? Think again! Amazon is flooded with near-exact replicas of high-end toys made of low grade materials, so buyer beware.
To learn more about toy safety, you can explore the work being done at badvibes.org, an organization started to “demystify the adult sex toy industry and positively transform socially irresponsible, environmentally and personally hazardous sex toy manufacturing and sex toy sales practices”. Since the FDA doesn’t test novelty items and the CPSC only investigates an item after extreme negative reactions, Bad Vibes has taken on the responsibility of having large numbers of toys and lubes tested privately to offer consumer info to the public. Pretty noble work.