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Are sex toys safe?

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Updated April 19, 2010

Question: Are sex toys safe?
“I was shopping online for sex toys, and came across a site that seems very knowledgeable, where they say the only safe kind of sex toy to use is silicone. They claim most sex toys have cancer-causing ingredients. I couldn’t help but notice that your site recommends stores that carry these sex toys. Are there dangers of getting cancer from using sex toys? Why are you recommending stores that carry these products? The whole thing definitely has me turned off sex toys for a while.”
Answer:

The turn off is understandable. Sex toys, while a lot of fun are by no means necessary to having a good (or great) sex life. But if you like them, hopefully the turn off will pass, and maybe some information on what we know, and don't know, about the safety of sex toys will help.

Unfortunately there is very little scientific data on the safety of sex toys, and I have come across websites that, in my opinion, make too many generalizations about the potential danger of sex toys (sometimes for reasons that seem a little self-serving). For example, there is simply no data that can confirm that “most sex toys have cancer-causing ingredients”. Also, it is untrue to say that silicone is the only material that is “safe” to use. It’s possible that ten years from now we’ll discover something in the manufacturing of silicone that poses a health risk. Scientists are constantly learning more about how the chemicals we come in contact with impact our health and the best we can do is keep up to date on what the research can tell us. The bad news is that scientists often leave sex out of their research, with the obvious exception of sexually transmitted disease research. As such finding information on the safety of sex toys can be difficult. Here are a few things to consider…

The vast majority of sex toy manufacturers do not disclose what they put in their toys. This “mystery material” may pose health risks, but we have no way of knowing for sure. Sex toys are not approved, tested, or regulated by the FDA. They are sold as novelty items, not medical devices.

We do know that many soft rubber toys are made using phthalates , which have been linked to several environmental and individual health issues, in a variety of other consumer products. The most common sex toys that are made with phthalates are called jelly rubber but many other kinds of soft rubber toys also contain phthalates.

We also know that manufacturers often add an artificial scent (to mask the smell of phthalate off gassing), and these scents, along with the dyes they use, and the material itself, could be something people have allergic reactions to.

So where does that leave us? As with any other safer sex issue the important thing is for you to understand and assess their own risk , which you can only do by getting as much information as you can, and making a thoughtful decision, preferably not in the heat of the moment.

There is no doubt that higher quality, hypoallergenic, materials, such as silicone, and elastomers, are the better choice. But they are expensive and out of reach for many of us. Using a latex condom on an inexpensive toy will reduce the risk of reacting to it, but may not eliminate risk entirely.

Learn more about sex toy safety:

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Sexuality
  4. Sex Questions & Answers
  5. Sex Toy Questions
  6. Are Sex Toys Safe - Safety of Sex Toy Materials

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