GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- A word of warning about spicing up your sex life: Not all products are safe. Some are even linked to cancer.
Sex toys are a $15 billion industry but did you know some of them contain a highly toxic chemical?
"Sex toys are all considered novelties. They're not FDA regulated. They're not regulated at all," explains Megan Stubbs, a certified Sexologist in Grand Rapids.
She adds that sex novelties contain phthalates, a toxic chemical that allows plastic to become soft and pliable. They're used in vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging and thousands of other everyday items.
"Those are actually pretty bad for you. They can cause feminization of embryos in pregnant women, responsible for low sperm count and in some cases causing cancer."
Stubbs is concerned consumers might not be aware of what they're buying. "You're putting these items next to very sensitive membranes and chemicals can transfer and that can cause irritation and inflammation, lead to diseases or just yeast infections or UTI's and we need to be concerned about what's safe and what's not."
The FDA has reviewed several studies on phthalates over the past ten years but hasn't banned them.
Here is their official statement:
"At the present time, the FDA does not have compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk. If the FDA determines that a health hazard exists the agency will advise the industry and the public."
So until that happens, you need to be an informed consumer.
We went to two separate adult stores in Grand Rapids. We found products that were phthalate free but only after carefully reading the labels.
And we found plenty of products that weren't. Most of them had the cheaper price tag.
"You go in the store and you see a range from $150 to $20. I'm going to go for the $20 one and here you are with this terrible product that you're going to be putting inside of you."
The best advice is just like anything else you buy, read the label. "You have to be a smart consumer. Know what your products are made of. They should be phthalate free."
Romance parties like Pure Romance are a good source for buying quality products. The parties are staffed with professionals, like Sarah Ingham, who know everything about how their products are made. "It's independently tested, so that we are assured that we are putting the very best products on the market. When we start looking at bedroom accessories it's really important to know what kind of materials you're looking at."
You want to make sure what you're buying is made of medical grade silicone that can be easily cleaned. The product should never give off a strong odor and it should never leave residue on your hands.
Phthalates were banned for use in the productions of plastic consumer products by the European Union in 2011 after studies there showed a link to cancer.