Current Issue

Wacky World of Rubber: Certain things just are not reusable

Comments Email

Some things would seem to be self-evident. But that isn't always the case, judging by the warning recently put out by the Centers for Disease Control that condoms should not be reused. And not surprisingly the Twitter post garnered a lot of attention.

This all came to light when on July 23 the CDC posted on its @CDCSTD Twitter account the following message: "We say it because people do it: Don't wash or reuse #condoms. Use a fresh one for each #sex act."

The Tweet included a link to the CDC's page on its website dedicated to Condom Effectiveness.

The page has a whole host of useful information, including links to pages on the right way to use either male or female condoms (and yes, the directions to not re-use either form of contraception is included in these pages). There also are links to fact sheets on condoms and sexually transmitted diseases, along with additional resources for consumers and public health professionals..

Of course, the Tweet itself had a long-running thread that included a whole host of replies and memes. Some were funny. Many were disgusting. And a number of people simply were posting in disbelief that this warning was even needed.

And the CDC's Tweet garnered a fair share of media attention, with stories posted on such websites as Forbes, USA Today, Huffington Post, Newsweek and Buzz Feed.

The article in Forbes started: "A condom is not a complex piece of machinery. It is also not underwear." The story said that a review of four studies found that from 1.4 to 3.3 percent of people admitted to re-using the same condom, noting that those were just the ones who admitted it.

"Re-using or washing a condom is like re-using or washing toilet paper," the author wrote. "A condom is designed to be used exactly once. Not twice. Not 1.5 times. Not 0.75 times, meaning that if you remove a condom at any time during sex, you are putting you and our partner at risk."

It pondered the reason anyone would re-use a condom, including cost, no more condoms available, too embarrassed to buy more condoms, or failure to understand the importance of condoms. The author determined none of the reasons were strong enough to rinse and re-use the prophylactics.

The Huff Post item noted that the warning comes at a time when STDs are on the rise, as the CDC database shows. The piece quoted a report that said in 2016 more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the U.S., the highest number ever.

These reports and the CDC Tweet also are witness to how far things have changed since HIV/AIDs first came to national attention in the 1980s and early 1990s. That caused a spike in condom use and education about "safe sex," something that clearly has subsided as research and medication have made such progress in treating HIV/AIDs in the ensuing decades. But still …

Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News, and he sees potential rubber-related stories nearly everywhere he goes. Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.