Canadian Plastics

No Plastic Sex Toys Please, We’re Canadian

Canadian Plastics   

I guess it had to happen.

I guess it had to happen.

Given the veritable avalanche of bad press surrounding plastics lately — bag bans, concerns over chemicals in plastic baby bottles and food packaging, and Lord knows what else — it came as less than a shock to hear that the federal government is now being urged to impose a ban on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in…wait for it…adult toys. (For those unfamiliar with BPA, here’s a quick primer: it’s a chemical building block that’s used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic.)

This latest twist in the BPA debate comes courtesy of Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of St. Paul’s. In a recent open letter to Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq, Bennett called for the ban, citing among other things a German study from 2000 that found that 10 “dangerous chemicals are gassed out of some sex toys.”

“I believe we all deserve to feel the products we buy are safe and that our government won’t shy away from legislation that protects us just because the topic of sex toys may make us uncomfortable,” said Bennett in the letter.


Okay, then, to modify Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s famous dictum, the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation…unless plastics is involved.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that Dr. Bennett was out of line in bringing this matter to the Minister of Health’s attention. As a public servant, she has a duty to speak out on behalf of Canadian constituents if she believes their interests are at stake. (I’m also tempted to tip my hat to her simply for adding a dash of spice to what can otherwise be a very dry debate about BPA. Who says consumer advocacy has to be boring?)

On the other hand, it’s hard not to see this as further evidence of piling on. As most of us know, BPA has been under attack for several years now, despite the fact that — as the American Chemistry Council, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and other organizations have pointed out — BPA hasn’t been shown to pose a health threat in the trace amounts in which it’s found in consumer products.

I’m not saying that I have a dog in the sex toy fight per se…but still, it was particularly satisfying when another interesting story about plastics caught my eye a few days later — satisfying because this one showed plastics in an uncharacteristically good light. According to a report in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a cancer vaccine contained in a fingernail-sized bioplastic implant has been found to successfully eliminate potentially cancerous tumors when tested on laboratory mice at Harvard University.

Yes, you read that right. Far from causing cancer — as the loonier wing of the anti-BPA brigade often suggests — plastics is shown to be an important element in a potentially groundbreaking new approach to treating the disease.

This particular treatment program is still in its infancy, but it could prove to be a game changer down the road for cancer patients. For those of us in the plastics industry, meanwhile, it shows once again the resilience of the material to which we owe our livelihoods; no sooner does it risk being bounced from the sex toy industry than it pops up at the farthest frontier of medical science.

Losing market share in adult toys but gaining a foothold in a potential cure for cancer? If the trade off must be made, it’s not a bad one.

Mark Stephen


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