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Thursday, July 11, 2013

What’s In A Label? “Phthalate-Free” Sex Toys Still Contain Phthalates

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Recently, I wrote about toxic sex toys and a new non-profit, Dildology, whose mission is to independently lab-test different toys to see what they actually contain. This week, Dildology released the results of one of their first tests: an analysis of the Doc Johnson James Deen Realistic Cock.

Dildology’s sex-toy safety stamp for this item? FAILED. Doc Johnson claims that the toy is “non-phthalate” and “body-safe,” yet Dildology’s analysis revealed that it contains 61% phthalates (plastic softeners that have been linked to many health problems. So basically, the information provided by the company about its own product is an outright lie.

This both does and does not surprise me. No US government agency regulates sex toys, so they can say anything they want about their products. I’m disappointed that a major manufacturer would stoop to such a level of dishonesty, though, especially Doc Johnson. Of the big U.S. sex toy manufacturers, Doc Johnson is the only one to actually make their products in America. Most other companies’ products are made in China. This means that Doc Johnson had complete control over their manufacturing process and knew exactly what they were doing when they placed false labels on their products.

Dildology’s first test confirmed what many people suspected: you cannot trust information from large sex toy manufacturers about the composition and safety of their products. It’s still up to consumers to take steps to protect themselves. Fortunately, there are more and more resources out there for consumers to educate themselves. Dangerous Lilly has lots of blog posts about sex toy safety issues and maintains a list of trusted sex toy manufacturers who can be counted on to label their products accurately. A couple of weeks ago, Metis Black, president of boutique silicone toy manufacturer Tantus, did a Sex Out Loud podcast about the chemistry of sex toys and her research and experiences as a member of the sex toy industry.

In short, look for safe materials (such as 100% silicone), buy from reputable manufacturers and distrust anything that has a strong, persistent chemical odor. I hope that as more of Dildology’s test results are released, pressure on the sex toy industry to actually create body-safe toys, rather than merely claiming that they do, will increase.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.