Fewer sex toys than children’s toys contain dangerous chemicals, according to a new report by a Swedish inspection authority.
In its study conducted in 2016, 2% of the 44 surveyed sex toys that had been imported to Sweden contained banned chemicals, the Swedish Chemicals Agency (SCA) said. In a separate study the year before, the agency tested 112 children’s toys in Sweden and found 15% contained banned chemical substances, including lead.
“This was a bit surprising,” Frida Ramstrom, an inspector for the agency, told AFP. “This was the first time we did such a study.”
Of the 44 sex toys examined, only one plastic dildo was found to contain a banned substance: chlorinated paraffins, which is suspected of causing cancer, the SCA said. It said it was difficult to determine why more children’s toys contained dangerous chemicals.
But one contributing factor was that sex toys were often imported by larger companies, which could exert more pressure on manufacturers to avoid harmful chemicals, whereas children’s toys were more often imported by smaller companies which had less power to make such demands, according to Björn Malmström, a spokesman for the SCA.
Swedish law stipulates that chemicals in children’s toys “must never pose a risk to human health”.
Three of the 44 examined sex toys, made of artificial leather and bondage tape, contained a type of phthalates used as a plasticiser at levels above a 0.1% threshold, the agency said.
That specific type of phthalates is not banned in sex toys but is on the EU list of chemicals of “very high concern” as it can affect the body’s hormonal balance and cause infertility. Companies are therefore required to inform consumers if a product contains more than 0.1%.
The global market for sex products is estimated at about $20bn (£16bn) a year, according to British market research group Technavio. It is expected to grow by nearly 7% a year between 2016 and 2020.
People in the US and China are among the biggest consumers of sex toys, according to Technavio.