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Toxins in Sexual Products
Heated Debates, Myths & More

When we first started Holistic Wisdom, Inc. we did so with the intention of selling quality products with an emphasis on education and empowerment regarding holistic health and sexuality.

As our involvement in sexual politics became increasingly active we became concerned that there was no one regulating the safety of sex toys. We began doing more and more research into the topic of potential toxins in sex toys and found an absolute mess in the mainstream media about them.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

Copyright Holistic Wisdom, Inc.

As you will read it can be very confusing to know what is safe and what is not. Since our opening in June 2000, we have always been focused on health. We were the first company to ban toxic sex toys and lubricants from our site and are the dominant leader in the industry in educating the public about this important issue.

In all of our research, we uncovered web sites and adult stores that were making all types of errors in the information they were providing consumers. Some of them were either not saying anything or were incorrect. We simply want to let you know what we have uncovered and what we have done about it so that you can have peace of mind about your choices when it comes to sexual health products.

Five Examples of Toxins in Sexual Products

Parabens -

Found in many personal lubricants.

Learn more about Parabens in Personal Lubricants

Health Risks:

  • Alters estrogen in women, increasing related diseases such as breast tumors.
  • Heightens allergic reactions like contact dermatitis and rosacea.
  • Decreases sperm cell count in males.
  • Spurs the development of skin cancer.
  • Causes problems to fetal development for pregnant women.
 

Phthalates -

Learn more about Phthalates in Sex Toys

Found in sexual products such as dildos and vibrators as well as some fragranced products.

Common Myth: that you can tell by the 'new car' smell, however, phthalates do not have a scent and cannot be detected by smell.

Health Risks: Endocrine disrupters that have been linked to - diabetes, breast cancer, reduced sperm count, ADHD, liver damage, insulin resistance, metabolic interference (contributing to obesity), asthma and allergies, premature breast development in girls, abnormal genital development in males (small penis, undescended testicles), autism and low birth weight in infants.

 

Triclosan -

Found in sexual products such as sex toy cleaners, genital hygiene products. Commonly found in many antibacterial and antifungal products.

Health Risks: Endocrine disrupters that have been linked to - allergies, creating bacterial resistance, abnormal thyroid functioning, disrupts normal growth. When combined with chlorine in tap water, it forms chloroform which has been linked to cancer.

 

2-Butoxyethanol -

Found in sexual products such as dildos and vibrators with latex paints, sex toy cleaners in the form of liquid soaps and cosmetics.

Health Risks: Irritation of mucous membranes of the throat, nose and eyes. Heavy exposure through breathing it, getting it on your skin or eating it can lead to pulmonary edema, metabolic acidosis, hypotension, hemolysis, and coma.

 

Lead Paint -

Found in sexual products such as glass dildos and vibrators.

Health Risks: Causes damage to the nervous system, stunted growth and delayed development. It can also cause kidney damage.



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Not Easy To Determine What Is Toxic

One of the challenges regarding the issue of toxins in sex toys is the desire of the general public to lump a type of toy into a toxic or not toxic category in any situation. For example, many people are now saying that anything that is considered a jelly sex toy is toxic. However, the truth is that not all jelly sex toys are toxic. It depends on what materials were used to create the "jelly" sex toy and how it was constructed. One of the issues is that there is not a set way that jelly sex toys are made or what materials are used to consistently make them. Then, when you throw in brands such as Jel-Lee, it is even more difficult to know what you are dealing with.

Determining how products are made and what is in them is nearly impossible for customers to do, and thus, why we felt we needed to do that work for you. The reason it is impossible for consumers to determine is because the manufacturers of the products do not list all the materials used to make them or the process in which they were made on or in the product packaging.

Therefore, you would have to depend on the adult store you purchase them from to inform you and good luck getting accurate information with most of them. Most likely you will get a response from them that provides little to no information or scare tactics to talk you into extremely expensive sex toys. The truth is there are many choices of safe sex toys that range from low to high in cost.

You can try referring to web sites that have quick lists that most likely will tell you that ALL jelly style sex toys are toxic and full of phthalates (toxic plasticizers used to soften PVC vinyls) but as mentioned, that would not necessarily be true. Some Jelly style products are not made with phthalates such the Basix style dildos.

Smell Does Not Always Indicate Toxicity

Another issue is the smell factor. Generally, it has been said that you can smell some toxins through what is commonly referred to as that 'new shower curtain smell. What some experts are claiming is that it is the smell of poisonous chemicals that are off-gassing from the PVC.

However, that does not mean that it is always unsafe if you smell something and it does not mean that all sex toys that smell are toxic. Phthalates for example, may not have a smell, yet are considered toxic. Some phthalates have more odor than others and different odors at that and it is difficult to base determining if something has phthalates based on merely smelling it.

For example, the material used in the Clone A Willy & Make Your Own Dildo Kits is a polymer that is safe, however, it initially has a smell to it until it is completely dry. It does what is called off-gassing, which is not an indicator of toxicity. However, many may think because it has a smell that it is toxic. In truth, it is the Amine within it ( a type of digestible drug that is used in condoms and the bags that are used today for breast implants) that makes it smell initially until it is done off-gassing.

Make Your Own Sex Toy Kits

Smell Study Debatable

A recent study released by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) on shower curtains received a great deal of media attention, which in turn gave erroneous information about phthalates. It was not shocking that they found phthalates in the shower curtains, as phthalate esters are a key ingredient in soft vinyl (often found in shower curtains). The error was in saying that it is the phthalates that cause the smell when in fact, phthalates can in be in some cases near odorless. Even more interesting was that the CHEJ failed to detect phthalates off-gassing from the shower curtains in its lab test. The other issue in this study that was overlooked, is that phthalate exposure levels can vary and shower curtains and reports show that those in the U.S. are well within safe levels, as verified by data from the U.S. Government Centers for Disease Control.

Sex Toys Require Extra Precautions

Of course regarding the matter of sex toys, there is still not much information available in the mainstream media and thus caution should be exercised considering that most sex toys come into contact with some of the most porous parts of our bodies. This would make absorption of toxins quite easy and is why we ensure that products sold on our web sites are all considered within the safe zones that we have outlined through our research.

Lubricants are another issue that many people do not think about, let alone massage oils, creams and other products that are absorbed by the skin. It is why we carry a limited array of lubricants and related products as we are strict about what they can have in them.

For example, when a study was released asserting that Benzocaine (found in most sexual desensitizers) can cause irregular heartbeats and even death we pulled those products from our site and posted articles about it. While the study showed that it mainly involved leaving the creams on the skin for long periods of time or on large portions of their bodies, we felt that due to the fact that the creams are put into highly absorptive parts of the body that we would not carry them unless they had less than 7.5% as seen in the System Jo desensitizer. You will find that most adult stores still carry many of those products with no warnings to consumers about them.

Sex Toy Stores Typically In The Dark

Most people who work for sex toy stores do not know what are in sex toys and are often in the dark about what makes something toxic. Because sex toys are not regulated (they fall under novelties rather than medical devices by FDA classifications) many in the adult industry do not know what sex toys are made of (as the materials are often not listed on or in the packaging). Often the companies that do claim to be knowledgeable are making blanket statements as to whether a type of product is safe or not.

Common Myths

We have seen other web sites stating information that is simply not true based on the scientific research that is available. For example, some are claiming that if a sex toy is not 100% silicone then it is toxic. This is not necessarily true, as it depends on what other ingredients the manufacturer added to the silicone.

A while back a website visitor contacted us to say that our Sue Johanson sex toy line was not 100% medical grade silicone and was therefore it must have phthalates in them, making them toxic. We double checked our research and in actuality, while it is not 100% medical grade silicone, the products are made with other materials that are phthalate free and thus the claims were false. It is easy to see why someone might jump to the conclusion when you read a lot of the hype on other web sites, but it is important to remain focused on factual information rather than fall into the dramatic claims that many are now making. It not only hurts falsely accused companies, but it denies the public of accurate information and products that are perfectly safe for them to use.

Research Still Needed

There simply needs to be more long term research to truly make some of the claims people are making about adult products at this point. It is irresponsible to become an extremist in either direction on this topic. As we researched for our own resources, we found that many web sites had inaccurate or misleading information. This was not only frustrating for us as we sorted through months of research, but it was alarming that many of these web sites were making false claims and / or blanket statements about toxins in sex toys in such a manner that an unsuspecting consumer would simply swallow these things as the truth.

What Holistic Wisdom Is Doing About Sex Toy Safety

There are so many questions that customers have about what is safe and what is not so, we have and are continuing to provide research to help with the most up to date information. However, because it can be confusing enough just to pick out a sex toy, we decided to go completely nontoxic as well as green rather than make customers have to go through all of our research just to select a safe product.

Our hope is to raise the bar on this issue of sex toy safety and to provide truthful, responsible information to consumers. We have gone straight to the manufacturers as well as consulted with multiple chemists to find out about every sex toy we carry. We have researched each product to determine what it is constructed of and if it falls under what we know to be safe. We have also decided that until there is more information on some of the questionable materials, we are going to err on the side of caution and refuse to carry products that contain them.

We have pulled all of our questionable products (which could not be verified as safe and nontoxic sex toys) in addition to providing recycling information on the materials in the products we sell. We are also a green company that practices what we preach when it comes to helping the environment and empowering people about their health.

We have done this so that those who visit our stores can feel comfortable knowing that no matter what they purchase, it is safe for them to use. After all, having peace of mind when it comes to sexual health is what we specialize in. Sex should be relaxing, fun, pleasurable and we want to make that as easy as possible for you to enjoy. If you have any questions or feedback about this article, please feel free to contact us as we are happy to hear from our readers.

The National Association for the Advancement of Science & Art in Sexuality - NAASAS

We have also founded a professional education association that helps raise the bar for everyone that works in the field of sexuality - the National Association for the Advancement of Science & Art in Sexuality- NAASAS


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