Heeding health risks in contraceptive measures

Danielle Zukowski

Recently, New York University welcomed revolutionary Meika Hollender to their business college’s Entrepreneur Night. She, along with her parents, are the founders of one of two brands in the world that are removing a carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemical from a product with “pleasure you want” but protection you shouldn’t trust.

Shouldn’t? Wait. That’s not the right Trojan slogan. That’s right, we’re talking about carcinogens in your contraception.The carcinogen found in condoms is called nitrosamines. The National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institute of Environmental Sciences, analyzed 15 types of nitrosamines, determining that they are all “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.”

Exposure in latex condoms occurs during the “rubber processing and may be present as contaminants in the final rubber product,” which means the carcinogen naturally forms during the molding process and is not being intentionally added by condom companies. However, it is not something being actively removed by them, either.

So maybe Durex condoms aren’t actually “good news for your sex life, bad new for beds,” maybe they’re just bad news for you. It may “feel good” during intercourse Lifestyle condoms, but how can we “play safe” when we’re being exposed to a carcinogen?

According to the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP), “vaginal walls contain many blood and lymphatic vessels, which enable chemicals to transfer directly into the circulatory system” because they are mucous membranes.

During sex, we are very vulnerable to absorption of nitrosamines. Yet, there is very little regulation regarding the nitrosamine content in condoms. The FDA has regulated that N-nitrosamines in rubber baby-bottle nipples should be less than 10 parts per billion, but what about condoms? The Toxic Substances Control Act requires warning labels on commerce with nitrosamines.

Go check yours. Do Trojan-Ultra Ribbed condoms inform users of the 82 total nitrosamines found in their condoms in 2014 by the RHTP? Why is this not something being regulated? Is it not enough for nitrosamines to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen?”

Exposure from one condom will not cause cancer, but over a lifetime, shouldn’t the accumulation of nitrosamines be concerning? Especially considering the fact that condoms are not the only product we use regularly with carcinogens in them.

Our society is surrounded by cancer. Start looking up the contents of your products and you will be surprised by the toxicity of chemicals in your cosmetics, toiletries, and other everyday items. Exposure should be minimized. If not by regulation, although I earnestly hope that change will be initiated, then through individual choice to buy nitrosamine-free contraception, like Meika Hollender’s Sustain Natural condoms.

However, it is important to remember that a nitrosamine condom is better than no condom at all. Risk of STD or unwanted pregnancy outweighs chances of significant-enough exposure of nitrosamines to cause cancer. Protection should be foremost valued.

If nitrosamine condoms are all that are available to you due to economic or other reasons, please keep this clause in mind. If you are in the position to purchase condoms, please take control of your sexual health and become informed.