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Microplastics come from everywhere… including sex toys

By design, sex toys interact with intimate and permeable body parts, and yet these have not been subject to sufficient risk assessment or management. This is important because microplastic absorption also happens through sex toys.

Photo by Womanizer Toys from Unsplash.com

By design, sex toys interact with intimate and permeable body parts, and yet these have not been subject to sufficient risk assessment or management. This is important because microplastic absorption also happens through sex toys.

A study – “Bringing sex toys out of the dark: exploring unmitigated risks” by Joana Marie Sipe, Jaleesia D. Amos, Robert F. Swarthout, Amalia Turner, Mark R. Wiesner, and Christine Ogilvie Hendren, appearing in Microplastics and Nanoplastics – noted that while majority of adults report having used sex toys, many across the globe do not realize the potential risks of sex toys. 

Four different models of sex toys were purchased for analysis and characterization. The studied devices included: a dual vibrator (deluxe rotating wall bangers rabbit vibrator), an external vibrator (Luna rechargeable personal massager), anal beads (Cal exotics X-10 Beads Blue), and an anal toy (stubby nubby G-vibe pink). 

An abrasion machine was used to calculate fragmentation rates of the materials making up these internal-use products. This study was done to examine the exposure potential of these products for nano- and microplastics using a standardized method. 

The study found:

  • All four sex toys contained phthalates that are either over the 0.1 weight % limit (for DnOP) or banned under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) by the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) in the EU (European Union) (DEHP, BBP and DBP).
  • The anal toy displayed the highest abrasion rate followed by the beads, then the dual vibrator, and lastly the external vibrator.
  • The external vibrator contained the greatest number of individual phthalates with seven different phthalates detected but at low concentrations.
  • Both the dual vibrator and beads only had di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) present, but at concentrations higher than the 0.1 weight % allowed in children’s toys by regulatory agencies.

This study, stressed the researchers, “indicate that sex toys can break down into microplastics and the materials contain phthalates that have been associated with health concerns.”

In the end, stressed the researchers, “critical next steps include the development of a standardized method for microplastic, nanoplastic, and chemical exposure during use of products such as these representative sex toys, including improved simulation of dermal and internal exposure abrasion mechanisms.”

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