Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is a chemical used in plastics of all kinds and commonly used in food and drink container lining. It can also be found in some sex toys. BPA is so common that studies of urine samples in both Canada and the United States have demonstrated that more than 90% of North Americans have BPA in our systems. In October 2010, the Canadian government formally declared BPA a toxic substance, and while it isn't yet banned in Canada, the move has sex toy manufacturers, retailers, and customers wondering about the implications of selling and using sex toys that contain BPA.
Is BPA Dangerous?While Canada has decided BPA is toxic, both the United States and European regulators continue to maintain that the levels of BPA found in humans does not pose a risk. At the same time, a growing body of research has been conducted and published demonstrating at least some connection between BPA exposure and negative health outcomes.
The main human health concern about BPA is its impact on reproductive health and reproductive systems, although animal studies have also linked BPA to increased rate of cancer cell growth, obesity, and insulin-resistance, and there are concerns that exposure may increase risk of erectile dysfunction, miscarriage and cardiovascular disease, and reduce the effectiveness of certain kinds of chemotherapy.
Each new research enterprise is worth considering, however none of them have been able to prove causality, so they can't really tell us if BPA is causing these problems. Manufacturers of BPA and those who continue to use BPA in products and packaging insist that the levels of BPA in our bodies are harmless.
Are Sex Toys with BPA Dangerous?The only research that has been conducted on sex toys and BPA has been the documentation that BPA is present in some sex toys. No research has been conducted to explore whether BPA in a sex toy could leach off the toy and into the body of the user. Aside from workplace exposure, where people working in factories that use BPA may be coming into contact through their skin or the air, most exposure is thought to take place via food and drink containers lined with BPA.
The BPA in the lining is thought to leach into the food or liquid, which we then ingest. It is not known whether or not the amount of time someone uses a sex toy, or considerations such as heat, friction, or lubrication, could impact the passing of BPA from a toy to a person.
Should I Avoid Sex Toys with BPA?The answer to this question depends on what you choose to believe about the research and the various government evaluations of the safety of BPA. There is no question that BPA leaches into our systems and into our environment. The manufacturers say that there is no harm; a growing body of science suggests there is at least some harm, possibly a lot.
BPA is so common that it it would be almost impossible to completely avoid exposure to BPA. But given that there are safer alternatives for almost all applications of BPA, why risk it? This, a harm reduction approach, has been noted by Dr. Ted Schettler, the science director at the Science and Environmental Health Network. In the case of sex toys, there are plenty of options at all price levels that are BPA-free, so the options exist.
How Can I Tell if a Sex Toy Is BPA-free?It would be nice if this were an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, it isn't. There are some materials that are BPA-free in their raw form. Sex toys made from metal, glass, and wood should contain no BPA, providing that BPA isn't used in any of the machinery that makes the toys. Sex toys that are 100% silicone and that are made from ABS plastic are also likely to be BPA-free, though it is possible that BPA may be used in a blend added to the raw material.
In researching this article, I contacted the two largest American sex toy manufacturers (Doc Johnson and Topco), and both replied that BPA has been on their radar for some time and they are working to reduce and/or remove questionable materials like BPA and phthalates from their toys. But both companies carry some sex toys with BPA, as do most of the other big manufacturers. Smaller manufacturers contacted (including LELO and OhMiBod) indicated that their products don't contain BPA.
The best one can do is contact the retailer and/or manufacturer and ask about a specific product. If they aren't able to give you an answer, you may feel better off choosing a different company to give your money to. Of course, as we are seeing with the baby bottle industry, a product being "BPA-free," bizarrely, may not mean that it contains no BPA.
Below is a list of some of the big sex toy manufacturers and their contact information for customers. If all this talk of BPA in sex toys has you wondering about BPA in other products, check out About.com's Guide to Environmental Issues 8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA.
Sex Toy Manufacturer Consumer Contacts
Topco Sales, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
California Exotic Novelties, email contact form
Doc Johnson, email: email@example.com
Pipedream Products, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Adam and Eve, email contact form, or call 800-293-4654, 24/7
OhMiBod, email: email@example.com or call, 1-866-573-0366 ext. 2, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST
LELO, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmyjane, email: email@example.com, or call 1-877-546-6952