What are Phthalates?Phthalates -- pronounded "thal-ates" -- are a family of chemicals used to soften hard plastics to make them more flexible. Derived from phthalic acid, and often called a plasticizer for its plastic-softening properties, phthalates have been produced since the 1920s and have been used in everything from perfumes to pesticides and medical instruments to sex toys.
Why are Phthalates Used to Manufacture Sex Toys?Phthalates soften the rubbers and make sex toys have a soft cushy feel to them. They are used in a wide range of sex toys, but there are many other toys that are phthalate-free.
Is There a Health Risk?There is simply not enough data to answer this question directly because few studies exist using sex toys. But the information regarding safety of phthalates in general is instructive.
"There is serious concern that certain intensive medical treatments of male infants may result in DEHP exposures levels that affect development of the male reproductive tract.""There is concern for adverse effects on development of the reproductive tract in male offspring of pregnant and breastfeeding women undergoing certain medical procedures that may result in exposure to high levels of DEHP."
Why Use Phthalates If they are Harmful?There are always research studies that offer different opinions, and other studies have shown that neonatal phthalate exposure has had little effect on children, and the phthalate industry asserts that the level of phthalate exposure utilized in experiments with rodents was so much higher than the level of phthalate exposure incurred by actual people that the results were skewed.
Who Do I Believe?This is an impossible question to answer. You need to assess the risk for yourself. The sources at the end of this article will direct you to information on both sides of this issue. If you have any concerns you can use condoms on your toys, or you can choose purchase toys that are phthalate free, which are often better quality.
How Do I Know If My Toy Has Phthalates?If you shop at a good sex shop, just ask them which sex toys are phthalate-free. Most good websites indicate which toys have phthalates in them.
- Greenpeace UK Statement on Phthalates in Sex Toys
- Brief on the Potential Human Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Di(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP). National Toxicology Program, Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, May, 2006.
- Aggregate Exposure to Phthalates in Humans, Health Care Without Harm, July 2002.
- U.S. FDA Phthalates and Cosmetic Products Information Sheet , Updated February 7, 2008.
- 'Gender-bending' Chemicals Found to 'Feminise' Boys, New Scientist, May 2005.
- Phthalate Info Sheet from Introduction to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals, Dr A. Michael Warhurst.