Some toys are made with additives called “phthalates” (pronounced thal-ate). Phthalates are used to soften plastic in order to give toys a more lifelike feel. Unfortunately, they also give them a distinctive “new shower curtain” stench, and a porous finish that easily breeds bacteria. As if that wasn’t bad enough, over time or when exposed to heat, phthalate-laced toys can break down chemically to produce an oily, slimy and toxic residue. Users have reported a sudden burning sensation when inserting toys made with phthalates, or developed an itchy red rash.
While many toy stores make a point of carrying only phthalate free products and manufacturers are rapidly stripping their lines of toys that contain these chemicals, some are slower to convert. So what’s a consumer to do? You can protect yourself by paying attention to these guidelines:
1) Choose toys made of 100% “platinum” medical grade silicone or hard plastic, acrylic, glass, and metal. Also make sure that silicone toys are clearly labeled “100% silicone.” Silicone mixtures may contain potentially harmful additives and can be porous enough to cause problems.
2) Purchase from retailers who can tell you which items are phthalate free. Most high-end retailers are extremely cautious about what they carry, and can guide you toward the right choices.
3) Sniff-test your toys—especially older ones that you may have purchased in the days before “phthalate-consciousness.” If there is even the slightest odor, or if the toy has a jellylike or squishy consistency, it may contain phthalates, so use a condom over it to protect yourself—or, better yet, get rid of it.
4) Consider investing more money in higher quality playthings. Better toys will last longer and offer many years of healthy pleasure.
If you enjoyed this Ask Tokii, check out the other articles by Dr. Joy.