Walking into the local XTC for a shopping trip is a very different process than you would find at a supermarket. Consumers will examine a product’s details for its size, shape, packaging, texture and more, but will often overlook an important element: the ingredients. A major factor of the quality and safety of a sex toy is the materials that it is made of. This is important to be aware of due to fact that there are currently no safety regulations in place regarding the production of products in the adult industry. As a result, there are toys that have been allowed into the market which may leach chemicals into the body during use.

In recent years, Germany’s Green Party has raised concerns over unsafe toys containing high levels of chemicals that are commonly used to soften plastic, such as phthalates and other carcinogenic plasticizers. A study done by Öko-Test magazine in 2006 found that plasticizers accounted for up to 58 percent of materials in some products. More than half of the toys they examined contained so many toxic substances that they would have failed to pass legal regulation if the same chemical compound was used to make a children’s toy.

Attempts to bring awareness to this issue gave birth to the American organization, The Coalition Against Toxic Sex Toys (CATT). They have created some advisory guidelines to help consumers better evaluate the safety of an adult product.

One very large red flag that can be found on a product’s packaging is the use of PVC plastics, which when contained in a sex toy, should not be in direct contact with the body. However, as the U.S. government has no labeling requirements on these items, even if a product is marked as “phthalate-free,” that does not mean that it actually is. Two signs to look for on a toy out of the box is if it has a plastic, “new car” type smell that comes from the presence of phthalates. The other clue to the presence of toxins is if the product shows signs of what is called “weeping,” or an oily type of film on the surface that is a result of chemical degradation.

To make it even easier for consumers, CATT has made a list of “Coalition Partners” consisting of retailers and manufacturers that only employ medical or food grade, hypoallergenic materials in the production of their merchandise. Parliamentarian Volker Beck gives commendation and encouragement to Denmark for the statements released by the Danish Environment Ministry warning consumers against toxic sex toys, and urges consumers to utilize safety precautions when using toys that could possibly contain toxins by first covering them with a condom. This precaution is something to consider, as it is a very easy step to making the use of a toy safer.

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