Sex toys can be a new and exciting way to turn up the heat in between the sheets. Whether you’re using adult novelties that tickle and vibrate, or are inserted into the vagina or anus with a partner, or by yourself, it’s important to take into account where you buy them, and their quality since they can contain polyvinyl chlorides (PVC), plastics with phthalates. Porn Guardian, an anti-piracy group, has launched a new Product Piracy Pilot Program to curtail bootlegged sex toys in online sales and online auction sites.

Piracy has become an increasingly huge issue in the world of adult entertainment where porn performers and producers have taken a financial blow due to tube sites. Now, adult toys like dildos, vibrators, butt plugs, BSDM toys, and even lubricants are being counterfeited, specifically in China, where these toys aren’t held to the same production standards as their U.S. counterparts. Cheaper sex toys are most likely to be of poorer quality and toxic, filled with high levels of phthalates.

“Forgive me for being blunt, but would you be interested in sticking electroshock cables up your [butt] or onto your privates if you knew they were made in China from sub-standard components and not UL listed for safety?” Peter Phinney, the founder of Porn Guardian told The Daily Dot. Phinney’s frustration lies in that these goods are being sold, “But what we are seeing online are counterfeit goods being sold under highly respected brand names that are NOT the merchandise they claim to be,” he said.  “And that's not competition, that's just theft and it needs to be called out.”

Sex toy counterfeiters substitute materials in their products with potentially unsafe chemicals like melamine, a chemical approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for manufacturing purposes, not for human consumption. According to the FDA, melamine can pose the risk of kidney stones and kidney failure, and of death. Irritability, blood in urine, little or no urine, signs of kidney infection, and/or high blood pressure, are all signs of melamine poisoning when consumed.

Unlike plastic medical devices or children’s toys, sex toys go largely unregulated and untested. They are classified as “novelty use,” and are not under scrutiny of any agency for consumer safety. Most popular sex toys are made of PVC plastics softened with phthalates usually found in soft “jelly” or “cyberskin” items.

Greenpeace, non-governmental environmental organization with offices all over the world, called on the European Union in 2006 to ban the use of phthalates in sex toys. Phthalates can upset the body’s ability to regulate hormone production and have even been linked to cancer. Greenpeace Netherlands asked the research organization TNO to test eight different sex toys, including dildos and vibrators, for phthalates. Seven out of eight contained phthalates in concentrations varying from 24 to 51 percent.

Jennifer Pritchett, owner of Smitten Kitten, a sex toy shop, encountered phthalates and toxins in sex toys, when she got her first shipment before opening her store. As part of a PSA in 2012 video “Toxic Toys with Jennifer Pritchett,” she discussed how she sent the industry’s 10 bestselling jelly toys to an independent lab in California, where many were found to contain various chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and hormonal disruption. Some toys had up to a 68 percent of the total volume with hazardous phthalate.

Taking into account bootlegged sex toys and its unsafe chemicals, Phinney told Xbiz, an adult industry trade publication, “We've developed a system that uses human eyes on the screen, to locate infringements and counterfeiting, then reports these to the manufacturers as a ‘Daily Digest,’ so they can make a determination about how best to proceed in order to protect their interests.”

Sometimes a deal is too good to be true when it comes to sex toys, and buying cheap toys could become costly to your health. While Phinney cracks down on these counterfeiter, become sex toy smart. Learn how to spot phthalates and fake adult novelties, for a safe and healthy sex life.

1. It’s best to choose sex toys that are 100 percent silicone, which is always opaque and never see-through. Stick with the manufacturers you know and trust. Avoid buying sex toys made in China.

2. Cheap sex toys may have a strong chemical smell that doesn’t seem to go away even with repeated washings.

3. See-through dildos are mostly toxic, meaning they contain “elastomers.” Although they do not contain phthalates, they are still known to be absorbent and not sterile. It’s best to use them with a condom, not anally.  

4. Chances are if your sex toy was a “steal,” it is more likely to be toxic, giving you exactly what you paid for. Sex toys that have the word “jelly” are usually synonymous with toxic chemicals like phthalates.