The Orion

Bad vibes from vibrators containing phthalates

Jessica Candela

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Photo credit: Annie Paige

Is your vibrator giving you cancer?

Many couples and individuals choose to purchase sex toys — dildos, butt plugs, cock rings, anal beads and vibrators — to amp up sexual pleasure. However, some commonly purchased toys contain unhealthy and unregulated materials.

Rebekah Higgins, who has managed Chico’s adult novelty store, Play Time 4 You, for seven years, has enthusiasm and personal experience with sexual health.

The Orion: What are phthalates and what kind of products are they in?

Higgins: Phthalates are plastic softeners (and) are mostly used in adult novelties, aka sex toys, the jelly soft ones. But, phthalates are also in your dashboard of your car. Phthalates make everything that’s plastic.

The Orion: Is there more of a risk with sex toys because you are inserting them into your body?

Higgins: Absolutely! The mucous membranes in your vagina have no defense against that kind of chemical terrorism on your body.
I always recommended people put condoms over their sex toys even if it did say it was silicone. Whether it says it’s ABS plastic or body-safe material, you don’t really know because adult novelty sex toys are not monitored by the Federal Drug Administration.
(The FDA) have no control over lubricants or sex toys that go in the body. The customer who’s purchasing these items needs to be aware and be conscientious of the health of their body.

The Orion: When and how did you hear about phthalates?

Higgins: I first read (about) phthalates when I started working (at Play Time 4 You), but I had no idea what phthalates were until I got diagnosed with uterine cancer. I started researching reasons why I might have got that.

The Orion: And you found out phthalates are one of those reasons?

Higgins: It is a possible reason. Plastic softeners — parabens and phthalates — have caused cellular abnormalities in vaginal and cervical cells.

The Orion: So what can we do as consumers to protect our bodies?

Higgins: Flip over the package and read what the materials are. Individuals have no idea the majority of sex toys that have phthalates in them.

As a consumer, it’s our job. We put our money where our mouth is. If you’re investing in something you think is cute or pretty solely for the purpose that it’s plastic and shiny, that does not mean it’s healthy for your body.

Tips to keep your body healthy

  • Use a condom on sex toys to keep them sanitary and to lessen the direct contact of chemicals on your intimate areas.
  • Read labels on sex toys to see if they are phthalate-free. Hard plastics, silicone, glass, metal and wood usually are.
  • Ask employees which safe, phthalate-free products they recommend.
  • Watch this video by Laci Green for further information on sex toys. Start at 2:26 for tips and types of good quality toys.

The bigger picture of sexual health

So, why are sex toys intended for use on human bodies but not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency nor the FDA, even though current products contain carcinogens? My thoughts are on society’s inability to talk about sex and our health.

When we as a society keep sex hush-hush to our youth and each other, we slam the door on countless important discussions surrounding sexual health like harmful chemicals in sex toys.

Having open conversations about sexual health is important for everyone’s well being. Start the conversation by taking a partner or a friend to Chico’s adult novelty store and pick out some new phthalate-free toys!

Happy vibrating!

Jessica Candela can be reached at [email protected] or @_JessicaCandela on Twitter.

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Bad vibes from vibrators containing phthalates