What's In Your S.x Toy?

Minna Ola

Apparently the answer might not only be 'fun and games'.

Several years ago, sex toys were still a taboo issue, despite the fact they were, ahem, penetrating mainstream culture. (Sorry, we couldn't resist. We'll stop now. Wait, you don't want us to? OK, nevermind.)

Anyway, five years ago, another hot topic of contemporary society directly clashed with some of the more concealed aspects of human sexuality. In other words, in 2007, an awareness campaign kicked off to draw attention to the use of certain industrial substances in the production of sex toys.

The controversy started from a group of PVC plastic substances called phthalates, whose main property is that they soften up plastic, giving it a more flesh-like, and therefore lifelike, texture. (Or at least just a little more pleasant.) At the time, environmentalists and some sex toy producers got up in arms and moved toward enforcing a total ban over the use of phthalates in the production of sex play accessories.

At the time, truth seemed to be somewhere in the middle: the chemical industry was arguing that phthalates are used in such a wide range of readily available products (like perfumes, paints, and devices used in healthcare). Meanwhile, environmental activists were claiming that skin-to-surface contact with a phthalate-containing item was just about as bad as full-body exposure to a DDT contaminated environment. (Can't remember what DDT is? Consider yourself lucky - it was the first synthetic pesticide on the market.) No tests had been run on humans, however, so the verdict was out, leaving producers uncertain as to what they should do.

The problem is that phthalates is that their chemical composition allows them to be released from the items they are a part of, and into the atmosphere in the form of gas. They can also be released as a grease-like substance, a film that covers the items, and gets absorbed into human skin through contact. And while there are no legal constraints toward the production and retail of sex toys with phthalates in their composition, producers and sellers felt they could not sit idly by, as the threat of intoxication loomed over their businesses.

Anne Semans, marketing director pof BabeLand, said in a statement made to MSNBC in 2007, that sellers will try to educate potential buyers as to what sex toys actually contain ,and will continue to sell phthalate-containing items, so long as it’s legal and certain buyers have shown a clear preference for them. Alternatives, such as silicone toys, or using sex toys with a condom on them, are available to all customers at all times.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress did pass the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which states that pacifiers, rattlers, and children’s toys in general, must not contain more than .1 per cent of DEHP, BBP, or DBP, which are all phthalates. The argument behind this decision was that phthalates pose too high a threat of intoxication, especially for toys that may come into contact with a child’s mouth. Other items, like footwear for children, were not included in the law – leaving concerns about the safety of phthalates.

So, maybe you want to research the contents of your bedside drawer a little more carefully. And if it's not silicone, maybe it's time to make a new purchase.