What are phthalates? Can we avoid them?

What are phthalates and are how can they be avoided?

Unfortunately, unless you live life as an Amazonian Pygmie – avoiding potentially harmful phthalates in everyday common household items is next to impossible. And considering their life expectancy is just 24 years, I wouldn’t recommend that either.

It’s possibly the hardest word to both spell and say that I have every come across, which if you were a conspiracy theorist you might say was done of purpose to make it hard for its meaning to get any traction amongst general consumers. But if you think phthalates is awkward, don’t even think about trying to remember the actual chemical names that this family of chemicals includes such as ‘di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate’.

Phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-lates) are actually a family of chemicals used in the production of plastics and vinyls, primarily to soften them. They are basically everywhere and used in literally thousands of consumer products. However, there is more and more research which suggests that that they may be harmful for us humans in large quantities. Something like a half a billion kilograms of phthalates are produced each year and they are prolific in common consumer products that women use everyday such as perfume, hair spray, shampoo, laundry detergents, insect repellents, vinyl flooring, carpet, plastic toys – even your car steering wheel! There are also phthalates in the air itself, from the dust in building materials.

Even milk in a glass bottle could be exposed to them through the plastic tubes used in the milking process!

Femplay New Zealand sells a wide range of products and most of these contain plastics. Many of them however are phthalate free and wherever possible, if they are we will let you know on the product page. In fact (unlike many other retailers who don’t like to talk about this issue) we also have a phthalate free section on the site under the Vibrators category.

Many adult shops suggest that customer who have concerns about sex toys that contain phthalates that they should use a condom over the toy. However, according to Ted Schettler the sciene director at the Science and Environmental Health Network, who is the author of a several research papers on phthalates there are simply no specific studies that confirm this. However, he did suggest that it would be a likely conclusion that latex condoms (that do not contain phthalates) would lessen the exposure.

Now to the specific question about whether using sex toys that contain phthalates is actually risky, the general conclusion by scientists seems to be that there is not enough data to suggest a correlation, or in other words there have not been enough specific studies into the use of sex toys that contain phthalates and the consequential health risks. Studies have shown however on rats exposed to high amounts of these compounds that they can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and testes and specifically they can cause hormonal disruption. There is also a preliminary study suggestion a relationship between phthalates and a reduction in semen quality in humans – and also genital development. A study in 2002 caused the FDA to suggest that infant males who were suffering from an illness (and presumably had a compromised immune system), and were undergoing treatment in addition to other vulnerable patients could be harmed by phthalate exposure specifically from vinyl medical devices.

So the two approaches you can take to limit exposure to phthalates in sex toys are as follows:

(1) Choose only Phthalate free sex toys. (2) Use a latex condom on the sex toy. So how do you know which toys contain phthalates and which do not? Basically every toy that doesn’t say its phthalate free you can assume may contain these compounds. Popular branded products like We Vibe are phthalate free and there is a reasonable assumption that they would be very careful to ensure this is the case in order to protect their brand.

Personally, I don’t think its a big deal in terms of sex toys just considering the already massive and unavoidable exposure one gets from these compounds from everyday life. The additional exposure using an adult toy that contains them might give you, in my opinion, is insignificant. But at least with some better understanding of the risks and dangers we can all make our own decisions and perhaps wherever possible, avoid phthalates.

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