Balloons and condoms that come in contact with body fluids discharge chemicals suspected of being human carcinogens, a study suggests. The chemicals, called nitrosamines, are frequent by-products of the vulcanizing process used to strengthen rubber and make it highly elastic.
The chemicals cause cancer in lab animals. Governments in Europe and North America recommend that manufacturers of baby-bottle nipples and other products for infants restrict nitrosamine concentrations. Germany also applies a similar, voluntary guideline to balloons.
Scientists at the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Institute Stuttgart in Fellbach, Germany, immersed unrolled condoms for 1 hour in a solution made to chemically resemble human sweat. Using a different solution made to simulate saliva, they similarly exposed material cut from balloons. Afterward, they tested the solutions for nitrosamines that had leached from the rubber products.