Put Toxic Chemicals Where? Beware of Toxic Sex Toys

Laurie and Debbie say:

Caitlin Murphy at Bitch Media warns about toxic chemicals in our sex toys:

She Bop employee Wyatt Riot "flame tests" a silicone dildo—luckily, the dildo passed the test.

If there’s any product customers want to make sure is nontoxic, it’s toys that they’ll be sticking into their most intimate places. But in a society where politicians are uncomfortable hearing the the word vagina, it’s unsurprising that there is little regulation of the adult toy industry and little research into the effects of sex toys and accessories can have on the body. Meanwhile, millions of Americans use sex toys and their acceptance is on the rise, with a 2009 study showing that 52.5 percent of American women have used a vibrator.

Manufacturers aren’t required to care about the toxicity of their toys. Although many sex toys are designed to be used internally, they’re not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration like medical-grade products. Instead, sex toys are considered “for novelty use only,” and manufacturers can fill dildos, vibrators, and cock rings with materials that are known to be harmful and that are regulated in other industries.

Sometimes people using adult toys have reactions to these things—like chemical burns, itching, upper respiratory irritation—while others are exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals without immediate negative reactions. While many doctors often do not realize that the people complaining of irritation might be having these problems due to caustic sex toys, retailers and educators have been hearing about it for years. …

Since the industry is unregulated, the burden of making sure sex toys are safe falls on retailers and consumers themselves. Some manufacturers and retailers have made it part of their mission to make sure the adult products they sell are safe. Blogger The Redhead Bedhead compiled a list of 17 “superhero shops” that guarantee they sell high quality, body-safe products.

Murphy also discusses some regulation of sex toys in Denmark. but she doesn’t go into the REACH regulations, which govern chemical use in products sold in Europe–including sex toys. One organization which pushed for REACH with sex toys as a specific reason was Greenpeace Netherlands. REACH was enacted shortly after Greenpeace’s campaign.

Here’s how we see it:

1) Be careful what you put in your body, regardless of orifice. Don’t give up your sex toys, just choose wisely.

2) Don’t trust industry “self-regulation,” but it’s probably better for sex toys (unless they are made by giant global mega-corporations). You can often trust independent stores who do their homework and share it with you.

3) Europe is light-years ahead of the United States in protecting its people from toxics of all kinds. While we would love to see the issues in Murphy’s article addressed in our country, we know that (even aside from fear of sex and fear of sex toys), adding regulations that protect people’s health is swimming against the current tide.