Phthalates (pronounced thall-eights) are a chemical compound used to soften hard plastics into soft rubber and jelly. 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, of course, sex toys.
Phthalates are used essentially to 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.
There are many organizations that have raised concerns about the dangers of phthalates both to the environment and to individuals who come into contact with products that contain phthalates.