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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Just the tips w/ Kat — Avoid toxic toys: A guide on using sex toys safely

    Public awareness — and panic — over dangerous and carcinogenic everyday materials has increased dramatically over the past few years. In our lifetimes, we’ve seen bisphenol A removed from our water bottles, found out that Splenda can increase your risk for diabetes and learned that Coca-Cola deteriorates everything it touches, especially our bodies.

    But what about our grown-up toys? Who’s making sure they’re not hurting us? There are no official regulations or standards that companies have to follow when producing sex toys. That’s why organizations like the Coalition Against Toxic Toys and even Greenpeace UK have been pushing to eliminate the use of a material used in sex toys called Polyvinyl chloride.

    PVC, symbolized by the number three on product packaging, is used in cabling, carpet, construction work, Blue Man Group performances and many types of adult toys. Although PVC companies generally insist that their product is safe, animal testing has shown that exposure to PVC can cause cancer and infertility. The Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged studies that have linked harmful side effects to the material, but has stated there is not sufficient proof to completely stop using PVC.

    However, the government is obviously aware of the dangers of PVC, because its use has been banned in manufacturing children’s toys in the U.S. since 2008; no toy containing over .01 percent can be put on the market. Major medical organizations, including the American Nurses Association, American Medical Association and American Public Health Association, have publicly expressed concerns about health risks associated with PVC products.

    The biggest risk associated with PVC is the phthalate content that can be released during handling. Phthalate exposure has been linked with cancer and reproductive issues, including sperm damage in male-bodied people. You can witness the effects of phthalates firsthand in toys with a more jelly-like consistency — they often have a pretty harsh chemical smell, too. Put them in a sealed container, and the toys will decompose into a gooey, amorphous blob that is anything but sexy. At the end of PVC’s lifespan, the lead, chlorine and mercury used in its production are released into the toy’s environment.

    So, these sex toys may not only prevent you from conceiving children, but when you throw the toys away in a landfill, they’ll eventually decompose and poison the water supply for any kids you do manage to have.
    PVC can seriously harm our bodies, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission — which is responsible for keeping corporations from killing us — is aware of this, since it restricts its use in other products.

    Why aren’t sex toys regulated in the same way? We’re more intimate with sex toys than other inanimate objects. We put them on, around and inside the most vulnerable places of our bodies.

    It seems that all we want in mainstream society is sex, as long as we don’t actually have to talk about sex. The nitty-gritty of it is stupidly taboo, especially when you consider how our sexual activity can affect our lives in nonsexual ways. For our safety, we need to discuss everyday dangers like this with our friends and with our government representatives, the people who actually have the power to change the landscape of adult toy production.

    Until we can get these poisons out of our playtime, you can protect yourself and you partners by, most importantly, not buying hard PVC or soft jelly toys. If you already have them, don’t throw them away: Sex toys are pretty damn expensive. Using a barrier and lube can minimize phthalate contact with your body and decrease risks. All toys, not just dildos, need a condom or non-microwavable, plastic wrap covering.

    Conveniently, a barrier makes cleanup easier and prevents buildup of bodily fluids and bacteria in the pores of your toy. These buildups can transfer STDs and cause infections over multiple uses, so wash your toys before and after every use to keep yourself safe.

    Do your research before picking out a toy. Talk to people about what they use and what they need to look out for, and keep yourself and any partners you’re playing with safe. If we stop separating public safety and sex, we can live in a safer, more sex positive world.

    — Kat Hermanson is a gender and womens’ studies freshman. Follow her @queerwildkat

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