11 Potentially Harmful Materials To Look Out For When You're Buying Sex Toys

by Lisa Hochberger
Vera Lair

Sex toys are taboo. When you order them online, they come in discreet packaging, and when you buy them in the store, you have the option to carry them home in concealed bags.

People have a tendency to walk into a sex toy shop, grab something off the shelf and rush home. While I commend the people who are open enough to use accessories to explore their sexualities — with themselves or with their partners — I urge people do more research about sex toys before they purchase them.

The reality is, sex toys can be dangerous if they aren't made using safe materials. This is a major problem because sex toys are not regulated by the FDA. What does this mean?

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring that drugs, biological products, medical devices, cosmetics, food supplies and products that emit radiation are safe for use by human beings. Few sex toys fall under the category of medical devices because to register as a medical device, the FDA has to review the product. This is a very lengthy and expensive process. It's a process that many sex toy manufactures do not have the money to pay for.

So, what category do sex toys fall under? "Novelty." Believe it or not, sex toys fall under the category of novelty, which means that they are not supposed be used.

While some people may have beautiful displays of sex toys in their homes, I think it's safe to say that most people who purchase sex toys intend to use them. However, with packaging that reads “for novelty use only,” manufacturers are safe. If a person were to use a sex toy internally or for sexual pleasure, the manufacturer would not be accountable for any adverse reactions that a consumer might have.

Because of all of this, the packages that sex toys are sold in often report materials inaccurately with no legal consequence for manufactures. By no means am I trying to discourage the public from purchasing sex toys. Instead, I am encouraging the public to use them with knowledge.

Here are a list of some things to look out for when visiting your local sex toy store online or in person:

1. Porosity

This is a term that is commonly used to describe how porous something is. Sex toys that have pours are hospitable environments for bacteria to grow in.

If you choose to use a porous sex toy, then it should always be used with a condom. This is because porous sex toys cannot be sterilized. I would recommend spending a bit more money on a non-porous sex toy.

Non-porous sex toys are smooth and have an impermeable surface. These materials do not harbor bacteria and therefore can be sterilized with boiling water or in a dishwasher. A non-porous sex toy may be made of stainless steel.

2. Phthalates

This is a chemical that increases the elasticity in plastic, making dildos and vibrators more flexible and transparent. It is illegal for manufactures to use phthalates in children's toys because they have been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, autism spectrum disorders, reproductive health issues and behavioral issues. Pregnant women and young children are some of the most susceptible to the damages caused by phthalates.

However, phthalates are still being found in many sex toys on the market. If a sex toy is cheap, the buyer should beware. Cheap sex toys usually use materials that are likely to contain phthalates. While a sex toy may say phthalate-free, a consumer must read more about the materials to deem it safe.

Also, use the smell test. The smellier the toy, the more likely that low-grade materials are being used that contain phthalates.

3. Other Harmful Chemicals

You should also look out for timethytin chloride, phenol, carbon disulphide, toluene and cadmium, which have all been found in sex toys. These chemicals have harmful effects on the central nervous system and may impact the fetus of a woman who is pregnant or a child who is breastfeeding.

4. Jelly

Many manufactures create packaging for sex toys that reads phthalate-free, however, they do not consider all of the materials that are being used in the toy. While sex toys that are made from jelly feel somewhat realistic, jellies contain phthalates. Jelly is commonly used because it is a more affordable material.

5. Rubber

Latex rubber is a porous material commonly used to make dildos. It is a firm material that is not lifelike at all, and it often smells bad. While the material is cheap, it often causes allergic reactions, specifically for those who have an allergy to latex. It must be used with a condom because the material cannot be sanitized properly.

6. PVC

PVC is another cheap material that is commonly used in sex toys to make them more affordable. PVC often contain phthalates that are used to soften the material.

7. Vinyl

Vinyl is also a cheap material that is commonly used in sex toys to make them more affordable. To make the vinyl soft, phthalates are commonly used.

8. 100 Percent Silicone (Safe)

This material is not porous and is hypo-allergenic. It is also soft and used to create realistic and bendy toys. They are durable, and with proper care, they will last longer than any unsafe jelly toy. Yes, they are more expensive, but they are worth it.

9. Stainless Steel (Safe)

This material is not porous and is easily warmed to body temperature, which may make it more pleasurable for some. It is also looks appealing to many, and it is easily cleaned with boiling water, bleach or in a dishwasher.

10. Borosilicate Glass (Safe)

This glass is commonly used in sex toys. (Think Pyrex, one of the most well-known brands.) This material is perfect for a sex toy because it is non-porous, non-toxic and does not change form with high temperatures. This means it can be easily cleaned by being boiled or run through the dishwasher.

11. Lucite (Safe)

While this hard-as-a-rock material may not seem ideal for a sex toy, there are some benefits to purchasing this type of toy. The firm texture is ideal for PC muscle strength-building activities such as Kegel exercises. People with a prostate may use this toy for stimulation as well. This toy can be cleaned in boiling water or in the dishwater.

Sex toys are great, and I highly recommend them. But please, do not pleasure yourself with potential poison.