The Swedish Standards Institute has developed and published a standard for design and safety requirements for sex toys. This is the first ever standard for the manufacture of erotic toys.
Erotic toys have been manufactured for many decades and next year it will be 50 years since the first sex shop in the world was established. And yet, despite the fact that it is now a gigantic industry worth billions of dollars, there has not yet been any international standard that applies to such products. The lack of clearly defined norms and standards not only makes it hard for consumers to know if a certain product is safe for their health, but has also meant that both manufacturers and retailers have been forced, in the best cases, to test themselves if a product is safe, and in the worst cases not to test them at all.
For the first time the subject of lack of standards was widely discussed when several years ago it turned out that phthalates, widely used in the production of, among others, erotic toys, have a potential harmful effect on human health. Over time, with successive studies, the list of negative health complications caused by phthalates has only grown. To date, new studies are emerging reporting the negative health effects of phthalates. The lack of standards in the production of erotic toys meant that it was solely up to the manufacturer whether or not to use harmful phthalates in their products.
However, harmful substances are not the only problem with adult toy manufacturing. The idea to create an international standard for sex toys came from a surgeon in Sweden. The doctor showed in his study that the number of incidents involving sex toys causing problems that require medical attention is increasing every year. The surgeon also noted that given the embarrassment of reporting such injuries, the actual number of incidents is probably much higher than the number of reported cases. Sex toys come in contact with some of the most sensitive parts of our bodies and their misuse or improper design can cause serious injuries.
The new standard ISO 3533 “Sex toys – Design and safety requirements for products in direct contact with genitalia, the anus, or both” aims to contribute to the reduction of such incidents by globally agreeing on design intent, material safety standards and user information requirements for sex toys. However, it is important to note that ISO 3533 only applies to products intended for direct contact with the genitals, anus or both. This means that it only applies to a subset of the types of erotic toys available on the market.
The development of the adult toy standard took two years before it was published. It was assisted by 75 registered experts from 19 countries, representing a variety of perspectives including manufacturers, retailers, distributors, consumer representatives and medical professionals.
With ISO standards, standardization is driven by the industries themselves, and standards are always voluntary. This means that industry representatives can take the lead in agreeing standards for their industry, which will ultimately benefit their industry as they can focus on innovation and users can be confident that they are getting safe products.
In this case, the work was led by the Swedish Standards Institute, with We-Vibe and Lovehoney Group funding the secretariate. During the process of developing the standard, public consultation was conducted, giving stakeholders outside the ISO/PC 325 group the opportunity to provide comments, which were then incorporated into the finished document.
Before the release of this standard, sex toy manufacturers and sellers could only use self-developed standards or use requirements for similar products, materials, and designs. Now, hopefully, manufacturers will adopt this standard, making it a widely used and that in the near future, to check if the product is safe for health, consumers will only have to make sure does it meets ISO 3533.