WASHINGTON, DC, December 13, 2023 – As more research reveals how many microplastic particles humans are ingesting and absorbing in their bloodstreams, Duke and Appalachian State researchers led by Joana Sipe and Christine Hendren have examined a source for microplastic absorption many would not have considered: sex toys. In a study originally published in Microplastics and Nanoplastics in March 2023, researchers will discuss the risks of sex toys at the 2023 Society for Risk Analysis Annual Conference. The majority of American adults report having used sex toys, which, by design, interact with intimate and permeable body parts. Many across the globe do not realize the potential risks of sex toys, which the researchers emphasize in order for consumers to make informed decisions.

Sipe and team examined potential risks associated with four types of currently available sex toys: anal toys, beads, dual vibrators, and external vibrators. In order of most to least micro-and-nano-plastic release, results found that the anal toy released the most particles, followed by beads, dual vibrators and external vibrators.

Another element to the risk of microplastics in sex toys is phthalates, known to be endocrine disruptors. These were present in all tested sex toys at levels “exceeding hazard warnings.” “We assert that since the measured presence of phthalates in our small sample size exceeds the exposure limit for the same chemicals in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations in children’s toys…, investigations into whether or not the risk scenarios are also similar [in sex toys] are prudent for public health protection,” the researchers wrote.

This research will be discussed in a symposium Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 1:30-3:00, in the Westin Washington D.C.

Problem introduction, observed data and policy gaps that instigated this work, and motivation for
convergent approach – 1:30-1:40,
Jaleesia Amos

Experimental data conducted by the co-author team to corroborate concerns about potential sex toy
exposures and hazards – 1:40-1:55,
Joana Sipe

Conceptual introduction of multi-perspective approach to risk management with a panel of diverse stakeholders – 1:55-2:05, Zoë Ligon

Introduction of panel – 2:05-2:10, Jaleesia Amos

Moderated Panel with Government, Journalist, Retail, Legal Scholar, and Exposure Scholar Perspectives 2:10-3:00


About SRA
The Society for Risk Analysis is a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all those interested in risk analysis. SRA was established in 1980. Since 1982, it has continuously published Risk Analysis: An International Journal, the leading scholarly journal in the field. For more information, visit www.sra.org.