Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Hybrid, solar power and even bamboo are a few words associated with protecting and preserving our environment. Dildos, vibrators and the occasional lube are words rarely linked with the environment, but now, even those unmentionables have gone green.

Ailecia Ruscin, former graduate teaching assistant for women’s studies, said that glass sex toys had been around for years.

“Some use glass toys because you can warm the glass or keep it cool,” Ruscin said. “It gives it a different sensation.”

Ruscin said glass toys were probably better for the environment because the toys would last longer, instead of ending up in a landfill.

Pat Davis, president of Passion Parties, a company that sells adult accessories and helps plan sex toys parties, said glass toys were beneficial because they were easy to clean.

“Glass toys can be very pretty, very decorative and very creative,” Davis said. “People even buy them as a decoration piece for their home.”

Davis said glass toys now come with vibrators in them. She said she thought more environmentally conscious consumers could be a reason the glass toys had picked up in popularity.

Shoppers seeking more green options may have helped glass toys become more recognizable, but the health benefits may have also played a factor.

Milton Wendland, second year doctoral student, said the phthalates were a substance used to make the plastic in the toys softer, more pliable and realistic. He said phthalates could cause the plastic to breakdown and could then release toxins into the body and the environment.

“Since phthalates are found in everything from paint to dildos, there is a lot of potential exposure,” Wendland said.

Emily Gertz, environmental journalist in New York City, said vinyl phthalates could cause harm to your health and could cause damage to your reproductive organs. She said not much testing had been done on phthalates.

Wendland agreed and said sex toys weren’t regulated by the government because they were classified as “novelties.”

Ruscin said the government banned all children’s toys from having phthalates in them because no one wanted a child sticking a toy with phthalates in their mouth.

“No one wanted to think about the sex toys. They didn’t want to think about where women were putting those toys, and how that might be dangerous to their health,” Ruscin said.

Gertz said women should probably avoid all toys that contain phthalates to be on the safe side, and instead to use some alternative options like silicone.

Ruscin said silicone could be easily sterilized, which was better because it could protect you from spreading sexually transmitted diseases if the sex toys are shared.

Consumers aren’t the only ones that need to worry about health risks. The retailers who sell these products have become concerned as well.

Ruscin said Good Vibrations, a retailer that sells products online, put symbols next to their products that didn’t have phthalates in them to let their customers know what they were buying. Ruscin said Good Vibrations was trying to phase out all products with phthalates.

Davis said Passion Parties had icons on their Web site that helped their consumers find what they wanted. She said they tried to make sure the customer felt confident about the product they were buying.

Davis said she thought women were becoming more educated about these products. Ruscin said she thought there was still more to be done in terms of raising awareness.

“We need to learn more about phthalates and what they can do before putting them inside our bodies,” Ruscin said.

Ruscin said the only reason she had become aware of the dangers associated with sex toys was because of her women’s discussion group. She said other women who wanted to explore their sexuality should join a local support group. Ruscin said anyone wanting to join their group could come to the Solidarity Revolutionary Center, 1109 Massachusetts St., on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Sun-dried tomato alert: Health investigators link the celebrity chefs’ favourite to outbreak of hepatitis cases.

Health experts are investigating an outbreak of potentially deadly hepatitis linked to sun-dried tomatoes

Health experts are investigating an outbreak of potentially deadly hepatitis linked to sun-dried tomatoes, it emerged yesterday.

Seven people developed symptoms of hepatitis A, which is infectious and can lead to fatal liver complications.

Risk: The Hepatitis A bug
Four of them were hospitalised by the illness but have now been given the all-clear.

However, health protection officials fear contaminated samples or other foods containing them could still be on sale or lurking in kitchen cupboards. 

This is because they are unable to test food for the virus and do not know which brand of sun-dried tomato is responsible.

The Government’s Health Protection Agency and the Food Standards Agency are on the alert for further cases after the two men and five women became ill. Four of the patients live in the East of England, two in London and one in the South West.

The health alert was triggered when two of the cases were reported late last year to the HPA.

Their hepatitis A was identical to a strain from a previous outbreak associated with sun-dried tomatoes in the Netherlands. Neither of the patients had travelled to a country with a high risk of hepatitis in the previous three months and both had eaten ‘substantial’ amounts of sun-dried tomatoes.

An investigation by the HPA of cases of hepatitis A from July to December last year revealed the total of seven cases in which sun-dried tomatoes were implicated.

Because some of the genetic strains of the virus found differed from the Netherlands outbreak, experts believe the contaminated sun-dried tomatoes may carry various strains of hepatitis A.

Previous hepatitis A outbreaks have been linked to sun-dried tomatoes, which have become an increasingly popular ingredient in middle class kitchens and favourite of TV celebrity chefs.

The virus is carried by human faeces and can be passed on through contaminated food or water, especially as a result of poor hygiene during the preparation of food.

It is the only common food-borne disease preventable by vaccine.

Symptoms appear around 28 days after infection and include aches, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, fever and fatigue. Patients may also develop itchy skin and jaundice which can last several months. 

In the most serious cases, acute hepatitis A can develop into fulminant hepatitis A in which toxins attack the liver, leading to life-threatening complications.

Around half of these patients will need a liver transplant to survive.

Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test, but there is no treatment other than rest and fluids.

Writing in the medical journal Eurosurveillance, Carlos Carvalho, of the HPA, said: ‘A single food source may be contaminated with more than one strain.

‘A food-borne outbreak with multiple strains in at least two European countries is suspected.’

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: ‘Sun-dried tomatoes are being investigated as one possible source of the hepatitis A cases. However, no food source has been conclusively identified and no other relevant cases have been reported in the UK.’

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