Some condoms fall short, study says

Erica Schlaikjer

Condom users can choose from a variety of models with spiraling "seashell" tips, numbing agents to delay orgasm, warming lubricants and other special features, but according to a recent study, some condoms are safer than others.

Durex Extra Sensitive Lubricated Latex is the strongest and most reliable brand, according to a Consumers Union report.

The New York-based organization tested 23 kinds of latex condoms and two types made of polyurethane, using an air-inflation machine to assess predicted real-life performance.

The seven highest-rated models could withstand at least 25 liters of air inflation before bursting, which is above the minimum industry standard.

These included Durex Performax Lubricated, Lifestyles Classic Collection Ultra Sensitive Lubricated and TheyFit Lubricated.

The scented honeydew and assorted color varieties of Planned Parenthood condoms were rated poorest.

Pleasure and novelty aside, condoms remain the only form of contraception that also can guard against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, according to the Consumers Union.

The group, which tests everything from automobiles to diapers, has been testing condoms periodically since 1979.

"I don’t think people really know the difference between different condoms," Weinberg sophomore Emily Pourciau said. "If I knew which ones had the lowest rate of success, I probably wouldn’t buy them."

Some students said they rely on brand image when choosing prophylactics.

"Durex has a kind of sterile, non-gender-specific packaging, but Trojan has a masculine sexiness to it," Communication senior Bridget Moloney said. "And in heterosexual relationships, it often ends up being the male’s preference."

Weinberg sophomore Joe Bernstein said he prefers not to use condoms.

"If I had to use one, I’d use whichever one had the manliest name, like Magnum," he said.

The Consumers Union found that most condoms met standards for length and thickness, but some samples of Durex Extra Sensitive, Durex Performax, larger-size versions of TheyFit and Trojan Magnum slightly exceeded the maximum recommended width.

The report suggests only larger-sized men should use these models.

Researchers found that spermicidal condoms have no advantages over other kinds in preventing pregnancy and may even cause further infections and irritation if used frequently.

Weinberg junior Russ Armstrong said he was shocked to hear that spermicidal condoms have no added benefits.

"I’ve always used Trojan ribbed with spermicide-9," Armstrong said. "It makes me feel more secure."

Students can purchase condoms from the Health Service pharmacy or they can request a "Personal Health Survival Kit" from the Health Education office. The complimentary kit includes two lubricated Trojan-Enz latex condoms, one non-lubricated Lifestyles brand and one Trustex Flavored Lubricated condom.

The kit also comes with a sexual health pamphlet and a piece of candy or breath mint.

"It gives students the ability to take a look at what some of their options are," Director of Health Education Kenneth Papineau said. "We’re encouraging students to make an informed decision."

Papineau said he chooses the condom brands by comparing data from focus group feedback, federal guidelines and reports like the one conducted by Consumers Union. Male latex condoms also are the cheapest to buy in bulk, he said.

"We’re not solely going to base our choices off of a written report," said Papineau. "We do ask for feedback from people, too."

Reach Erica Schlaikjer at [email protected].