Phthalates are specific chemicals that are used to increase the flexibility of a plastic. They’re found in shower curtains, vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, plastic piping, and - you guessed it - toxic sex toys. Phthalates are widely considered to be dangerous and are no longer allowed in children’s products, but they can be next to impossible to avoid completely. Phthalates have been linked to numerous health problems, including asthma, neurological development issues, issues in reproductive organs in sons of parents who have been exposed to phthalates, and autoimmune diseases.
Everyone’s had one of those dildos - the soft, flexible dildos (often in technicolor) that make better prank props and self-defense weapons than they do sex toys. You may have thrown yours in a drawer somewhere, only to discover months later that everything in the drawer smells like a shower curtain, the toy has changed in color and texture, and it appears to have changed shape, too. What you had right there was a toxic toy.
Toxic toys are an unfortunate reality in the U.S. and many other countries. Basically, a toxic toy is a toy that’s made out of materials that are unsafe for use in a sexual context. Due to import regulations, sex toys can be categorized as “Novelty” Products, which means the materials used to make them aren’t regulated or checked in any meaningful way (like through the FDA). Toy companies can and will lie about the materials they use in their sex toys. Unfortunately, it’s up to scrupulous, ethical retailers and the consumer to champion for change.
What happens when you use these toys? Is using a jelly dildo safe? Well, results may vary, but look at it like this: if you can smell the fumes coming off of the toy, that’s called “off-gassing”. That smell is the toxic plastic used to make the toy turning into gas before your very nose, so it should come as no surprise that these toys can cause chemical burns and inflammation of your genitals when used.
Toxic Toy Materials
Now that you know what to look for in a body-safe toy, let’s detail the different things you should avoid when treating yourself next. The next two points refer to toys that are unsafe under any circumstance. DO NOT BUY THEM!
Jelly, Rubber, PVC-based Toys: These toys are cheap for a reason! They’re attractive in the packaging and make for an inexpensive bachelor/ette gift, but these inexpensive materials are toxic to the body. These toxins absorb into your mucous membranes, causing a whole host of issues from nausea and cramps to chemical rashes and migraines.
Tell Tale Signs of Unsafe Toys: There are a few different ways to tell if a toy is unsafe to use. These are the signs that your toy is “breaking down”, or destabilizing into harmful materials.
Can’t I just put a condom on it?
While using a condom on your penetrative toys isn’t a bad idea (especially with new or non-fluid bonded partners), condoms are not effective in preventing the transmission of toxic materials to your body. It doesn’t work.
Safe Toy Materials
So what’s one to do? Educate yourself! Here are the different kinds of non-porous materials that are deemed body-safe for your pleasure:
There are also some safe, but porous materials out there - these toys should be recycled after a certain amount of time, because with repeated cleanings and use their porousness will increase (making them less safe). Porous toys can still harbor bacteria even after a thorough cleaning, so these toys should not be shared with non-fluid bonded partners without appropriate barriers (such as condoms).
What can I do to avoid toxic toys?
In the face of all of this new information, it can be difficult to know how to buy body-safe sex toys and products. Our biggest recommendation is to know which businesses are committed to body-safe products (such as us!). Also, keep those telltale signs of toxic toys in mind - weird colors, changing shapes, and stinky plastic are the signs you want to steer clear from.
Don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!