Birth Control Archive

German Study Finds Some Condoms Contain Cancer-Causing Chemical (6/04)

The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Institute in Stuttgart [scientific research] has warned that most condoms on the market contain a cancer-causing chemical and has urged that their production have stringent quality control. The institute found the carcinogen N-Nitrosamine in 29 of 32 types of condoms it tested.

The condoms, kept in a solution with artificial sweat, exuded huge amounts of cancer-causing N-Nitrosamine from its rubber coating. Researchers measured amounts of N-Nitrosamine, which were way above the prescribed limits for other rubber products such as baby pacifiers. “N-Nitrosamine is one of the most carcinogenic substances…There is a pressing need for manufacturers to tackle this problem.” The study said that the carcinogen is thought to be present in a substance used to improve condom elasticity. When the rubber material comes in contact with human bodily fluids, it can release traces of N-Nitrosamine. Since there are no prescribed limits of N-Nitrosamine for condoms, the study hasn’t caused panic among manufacturers or mass-recalling of the products from counters. Local gov’t officials said condom users should not stop using rubber contraceptives based on the results of the study because N-Nitrosamine does not present an immediate health risk. The Baden-Würtemmberg Social Ministry said it didn’t think “it posed a risk.” But Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said that daily condom use exposed users to N-Nitrosamine levels up to three times higher than levels naturally present in food. Werner Altkofer, head of the Chemical & Veterinary Investigation Inst said that though the production of rubber usually uses chemicals that can exude N-Nitrosamine, condom makers could bypass it by using more expensive alternative substances available on the market that don’t form the carcinogen. “We believe that it’s up to the manufacturers to use other production processes so that no N-Nitrosamine is formed in condoms,” Altkofer said. He added that the latter was technically possible going by the fact that products of some manufacturers didn’t show traces of the carcinogen during the testing. Shortly after the results of the study were released, Germany’s Beate Uhse banned chocolate-flavored condoms; the study showed these condoms had overwhelming high levels of N-Nitrosamine. [The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Institute in Stuttgart, 4Jun04;http://www.dwworld.de/english/0,3367,1446_A_1220847_1_A,00.html; N. Valko, RN, 5Jun04