Phthalates are a type of softener that are used in several different products, from modelling clay, to pharmaceutical products, to fishing lures. Like that “new car smell” you get when you drive that new ride off the showroom floor? That’s phthalates. And of course, phthalates are used in some sex toys. Sex toys made of “jelly rubber” tend to be very realistic in feel, but that realism is achieved chemically. Already, use of certain phthalates has been regulated, and in Australia, a ban on any item with more than one percent diethylhexyl phthalate is in place as of early 2010.
The reason some sex toy manufacturers started using phthalates is because of the desirable effect of softening, which makes sex toys more lifelike and realistic to the touch, and easier to use. Phthalates are by no means ubiquitous in the sex toy industry, and it is easy to find vibrators, dildos, and other toys that are phthalate-free. Generally most sex toys these days are phthalate-free, as better technology and manufacturing techniques have come to surface.
If you work for the chemical industry, you’re going to say that they are not dangerous, but it has certainly been the source of a lot of controversy. Phthalates are excreted by the body, so they don’t build up over time. However, there has been evidence that they can be toxic in animals. Whether they cause harm to humans hasn’t been definitely proven, simply because there has not been sufficient human testing done.
However, even though there has not been a “definitive” study that shows they are harmful to humans, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed with caution. A jelly-rubber vibrator may have a lot to offer in terms of realism and a good feel, but that’s not the only type of vibrator that can achieve that result. A good silicone-based vibrator has a very nice, smooth feel to it as well, and is phthalate-free. If you do decide to use a jelly-rubber vibrator that has phthalates, it is generally recommended to use a condom over it.
Besides the questionability of the material itself, a phthalate-based sex toy is often just difficult to clean, and this in itself may cause problems.
One final disadvantage to phthalate-based toys is the smell – they often have a chemical smell to them, which can be a big turn-off when playing with a partner. Remember that “new car smell”? It’s really nothing but chemicals. New car smell has its place, and it’s not in the bedroom.
There has been a lot of talk about phthalates in sex toys, but don’t be misled. Not all sex toys have phthalates, and in fact, most of them don’t. Check the label. There are plenty of satisfactory alternatives, especially toys made from medical grade silicone or elastomer – which feel just as good and are proven to be completely body-safe.
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