Plasticizers & PVC in Vibrators

Three popular sex toys were purchased and tested with a goal of understanding to what extent phthalates and other plasticizers are still used in these products. Disposable gloves are ubiquitous at every stage of food production. Sex toys made of flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, are popular due to their durability and relatively low cost. To make vinyl products flexible, manufacturers add high levels of plasticizer chemicals--typically around 30% by weight. These plasticizers can easily migrate out of these products and expose people. In this study, we analyzed 3 popular sex toys for phthalate and non-phthalate alternative plasticizers.

Instrumental Analysis

A Thermo Scientific Nicolet iS5 Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer was used by Ecology Center researchers in attenuated total reflection (ATR) mode with a diamond crystal. FTIR is a widely used tool for determining the chemical identity of materials. A small portion of each product was placed on the ATR sample stage, and a spectrum was obtained from the FTIR from 4000-450 cm-1.  A spectrum was also obtained using a solvent extract. To avoid cross-contamination the ATR stage was thoroughly cleaned with isopropyl alcohol after each spectrum was obtained.

The resulting infrared spectra were analyzed visually and compared against a library of known spectra to detect the presence of phthalates and other known plasticizers. The products were also analyzed to determine polymer type and identify if the product was PVC.

Our spectral library included ortho-phthalates and non-phthalate plasticizers such as DINCH and DOTP. We visually examined the spectra to identify absorption bands unique to each chemical to avoid misidentification.

Results for Tested Products




Pipedream - Waterproof Finger Fun

Styrene Butylene Copolymer

Non detect

Adam & Eve - Rotating G-Spot Rabbit



Calexotics - Midnight "G" Vibe




“Drop-in” phthalate substitutes raise concerns due to human exposure and data gaps.

With the market for flexible vinyl products, like sex toys, slowly moving away from ortho-phthalates, other chemical plasticizers are being used as safer substitutes. Like phthalates, these drop-in substitutes are used in large amounts and are continually released from products like sex toys resulting in human exposure. Environmental health researchers have raised concerns that many of the non-phthalate alternative plasticizers have not been thoroughly studied, and often only by the chemical manufacturers.

DOTP (also known as DEHT) is considered a safer alternative to ortho-phthalates, although data gaps remain, particularly concerning possible endocrine disruption. New research showing the interaction of DOTP with hormone receptors underscores the need to test this chemical further. Other studies show exposure to DOTP is widespread and omnipresent. Biomonitoring conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that all age groups, sexes, and ethnicities had a known metabolite of DOTP in their bodies.  Our previous report on vinyl food handling gloves discusses the broader concerns about PVC and many plasticizers. 


Published on February 10, 2020

There are no published samples in this report.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical.