Bad vibrations? We expose an EU sex scandal

Posted by bex — 8 September 2006 at 8:00am - Comments

How safe is your sex toy?

Is nothing sacred? A new report released today by our Dutch office reveals that the plastics used to construct a wide range of sex toys contain very high concentrations of hazardous phlalates, toxic chemical softeners used in PVC to make it soft and flexible.

Greenpeace Netherlands asked research organization TNO to test eight different sex toys, including dildos and vibrators, for phthalates. Worryingly, seven out of eight contained phthalates in concentrations varying from 24 to 51 percent. Remember, these are chemicals which do not easily biodegrade and can be dangerous - even in small amounts.

The research was commissioned after Durex's 2005 Global Sex Survey revealed that three million Dutch people admit to owning a sex toy. Over a million are sold there every year, making the market worth 22 million Euros.

Greenpeace has been opposing the use of phthalates for over three years, after research into children's toys and teething rings showed that the chemicals could be ingested through direct exposure to sensitive tissue, such as that found inside the mouth. In 2005 the EU banned the use of the phthalate DEHP in children's toys because of its damaging effect on young children, forcing toy manufacturers to develop alternatives. It is shocking to find them still used in sex toys, also made for internal use.

According to Toxic campaigner Bart van Opzeeland 'It's incredible that this substance can still be used in toys for adults. The last few years we've tested a lot of products but never before did we find such high concentrations.'

Unfortunately, phthalates can still be widely found in products ranging from cosmetics to floor coverings, and are known to leach out into the environment (or into your body, in the case of sex toys) over time.

The latest research indicates that exposure to these substances can upset the body's ability to regulate hormone production, damage reproduction, and cause cause liver and kidney defects. They can also possibly cause cancer.

So what's the solution?
'Legislation is obviously insufficient in this matter', says Van Opzeeland. 'It's time for legislation that bans this kind of hazardous substance. That is the only way to stop pollution.' The truth is that safe alternatives for many hazardous substances are already available. It is perfectly reasonable to demand a law which ensures that:

  • substances should be put on the market only once their safety has been proven.
  • Information on all chemicals and products should be publicly available.

Greenpeace continues to demand that the EU adopts the REACH proposals for a strict chemicals law. If adopted, REACH would ban the production and use of toxic substances, forcing industry to use non-hazardous alternatives.

Some toys and traditionally toys that have been manufactured in the past do contain a high level of phthalate's it is rare for someone to actually have a reaction or cause any significant damage to themselves. I am not a medical professional or a chemist, however these things have been used for a long time and provided the toys are kept clean and looked after then there is not often any cause for alarm in the way of possible side effects. It does seem ridiculous that someone would carry out this study and not take in to account more day to day used things that also have a high amount in them - I appreciate you mention cosmetics and floor coverings, however this whole report is based around sex toys. I am pretty certain that cosmetic wear will cause more damage than the use of sex toys with regards to daily use. I own the UK based http://www.vibration-station.co.uk which retails sex toys and I am happy to say that our market sector is waking up to this problem however, and increasingly we are seeing toys come on the market free of this substance - but to leave you with an intereting fact - out of all the Vibrators and toys we have sold, we have not had one customer come back to us to say it has caused them troubles, and on top of this, take Lovehoney.co.uk's recent rabbit ammnesty - surely this shows we (as an industry) take our part on this matter extremely seriously ???

Just a thought !!

Tammy
http://www.vibration-station.co.uk

In response to Tammy:

Whilst I want to stress the point it is very important for everyone to keep their toys very clean, washing does not remove phthalates. I was dissappointed reading your letter being someone whose company 'is becoming aware of the phthalate problem' that you do not seem to fully comprehend why phthalates are under scrutiny:

1) The issue with phthalates is not that they cause a reaction in people - it is that they are potentially carcinogenic and cause reproductive abnormalities in (mainly) male offspring.

2) These reproductive abnormalities are seen in males before puberty. Therefore being exposed as an adult will not cause any effects on themselves (except in a carcinogenic manner).

3) The effects of phthalate intake are long term. For example a woman who exposes herself to a large amount of phthalates on a daily basis (and you were correct about cosmetics and floors, but they are actually everywhere - food, water, air etc) whilst pregnant or lactating who then proceeds to have a baby boy with abnormal genitals would not pinpoint her favourite rabbit as the problem (and it would be just one of the many daily exposure routes).

4) The rapidly decreasing sperm rate (40% lower than 50 years ago) is possibly due (at least in part) to the extent of endocrine disruptors (of which phthalates represent a large group) in our environment.

This is a simplified issue of phthalate problems - for a more detailed account of the issue please go to:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/407990_7

The awareness and toxicity of phthalates needs to be accurately explained to those companies using them - of which it is evident by your statement it has not been - to enable us to decrease the use and exposure of those substances which are affecting our children, and environment.

Rebecca

DEHP and phthalates research scientist

A lot of the more high end sex toys are now being made of glass which is a lot better then some of the plastics. They should at least start making some plastic ones out of recycled materials

So it looks pretty clear that we want to avoid exposure to phthalates. But until legislation bans their use in sex toys there is good chance you are absorbing a dose of phthalates every time you use one.

This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.

This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.

Some toys and traditionally toys that have been manufactured in the past do contain a high level of phthalate's it is rare for someone to actually have a reaction or cause any significant damage to themselves. I am not a medical professional or a chemist, however these things have been used for a long time and provided the toys are kept clean and looked after then there is not often any cause for alarm in the way of possible side effects. It does seem ridiculous that someone would carry out this study and not take in to account more day to day used things that also have a high amount in them - I appreciate you mention cosmetics and floor coverings, however this whole report is based around sex toys. I am pretty certain that cosmetic wear will cause more damage than the use of sex toys with regards to daily use. I own the UK based http://www.vibration-station.co.uk which retails sex toys and I am happy to say that our market sector is waking up to this problem however, and increasingly we are seeing toys come on the market free of this substance - but to leave you with an intereting fact - out of all the Vibrators and toys we have sold, we have not had one customer come back to us to say it has caused them troubles, and on top of this, take Lovehoney.co.uk's recent rabbit ammnesty - surely this shows we (as an industry) take our part on this matter extremely seriously ??? Just a thought !! Tammy http://www.vibration-station.co.uk

In response to Tammy: Whilst I want to stress the point it is very important for everyone to keep their toys very clean, washing does not remove phthalates. I was dissappointed reading your letter being someone whose company 'is becoming aware of the phthalate problem' that you do not seem to fully comprehend why phthalates are under scrutiny: 1) The issue with phthalates is not that they cause a reaction in people - it is that they are potentially carcinogenic and cause reproductive abnormalities in (mainly) male offspring. 2) These reproductive abnormalities are seen in males before puberty. Therefore being exposed as an adult will not cause any effects on themselves (except in a carcinogenic manner). 3) The effects of phthalate intake are long term. For example a woman who exposes herself to a large amount of phthalates on a daily basis (and you were correct about cosmetics and floors, but they are actually everywhere - food, water, air etc) whilst pregnant or lactating who then proceeds to have a baby boy with abnormal genitals would not pinpoint her favourite rabbit as the problem (and it would be just one of the many daily exposure routes). 4) The rapidly decreasing sperm rate (40% lower than 50 years ago) is possibly due (at least in part) to the extent of endocrine disruptors (of which phthalates represent a large group) in our environment. This is a simplified issue of phthalate problems - for a more detailed account of the issue please go to: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/407990_7 The awareness and toxicity of phthalates needs to be accurately explained to those companies using them - of which it is evident by your statement it has not been - to enable us to decrease the use and exposure of those substances which are affecting our children, and environment. Rebecca DEHP and phthalates research scientist

A lot of the more high end sex toys are now being made of glass which is a lot better then some of the plastics. They should at least start making some plastic ones out of recycled materials

So it looks pretty clear that we want to avoid exposure to phthalates. But until legislation bans their use in sex toys there is good chance you are absorbing a dose of phthalates every time you use one.

This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.

This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.

Some toys and traditionally toys that have been manufactured in the past do contain a high level of phthalate's it is rare for someone to actually have a reaction or cause any significant damage to themselves. I am not a medical professional or a chemist, however these things have been used for a long time and provided the toys are kept clean and looked after then there is not often any cause for alarm in the way of possible side effects. It does seem ridiculous that someone would carry out this study and not take in to account more day to day used things that also have a high amount in them - I appreciate you mention cosmetics and floor coverings, however this whole report is based around sex toys. I am pretty certain that cosmetic wear will cause more damage than the use of sex toys with regards to daily use. I own the UK based http://www.vibration-station.co.uk which retails sex toys and I am happy to say that our market sector is waking up to this problem however, and increasingly we are seeing toys come on the market free of this substance - but to leave you with an intereting fact - out of all the Vibrators and toys we have sold, we have not had one customer come back to us to say it has caused them troubles, and on top of this, take Lovehoney.co.uk's recent rabbit ammnesty - surely this shows we (as an industry) take our part on this matter extremely seriously ??? Just a thought !! Tammy http://www.vibration-station.co.uk
In response to Tammy: Whilst I want to stress the point it is very important for everyone to keep their toys very clean, washing does not remove phthalates. I was dissappointed reading your letter being someone whose company 'is becoming aware of the phthalate problem' that you do not seem to fully comprehend why phthalates are under scrutiny: 1) The issue with phthalates is not that they cause a reaction in people - it is that they are potentially carcinogenic and cause reproductive abnormalities in (mainly) male offspring. 2) These reproductive abnormalities are seen in males before puberty. Therefore being exposed as an adult will not cause any effects on themselves (except in a carcinogenic manner). 3) The effects of phthalate intake are long term. For example a woman who exposes herself to a large amount of phthalates on a daily basis (and you were correct about cosmetics and floors, but they are actually everywhere - food, water, air etc) whilst pregnant or lactating who then proceeds to have a baby boy with abnormal genitals would not pinpoint her favourite rabbit as the problem (and it would be just one of the many daily exposure routes). 4) The rapidly decreasing sperm rate (40% lower than 50 years ago) is possibly due (at least in part) to the extent of endocrine disruptors (of which phthalates represent a large group) in our environment. This is a simplified issue of phthalate problems - for a more detailed account of the issue please go to: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/407990_7 The awareness and toxicity of phthalates needs to be accurately explained to those companies using them - of which it is evident by your statement it has not been - to enable us to decrease the use and exposure of those substances which are affecting our children, and environment. Rebecca DEHP and phthalates research scientist
A lot of the more high end sex toys are now being made of glass which is a lot better then some of the plastics. They should at least start making some plastic ones out of recycled materials
So it looks pretty clear that we want to avoid exposure to phthalates. But until legislation bans their use in sex toys there is good chance you are absorbing a dose of phthalates every time you use one.
This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.
This comment was removed because it broke our house rules.

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