The consumers group best known for rating cars and washing machines has turned its testing prowess to condoms to find out which ones measure up best and how other birth control methods compare. The nonprofit Consumers Union says in a new guide to contraception that the seven top types of condoms they studied did not burst despite vigorous testing, and all models met international standards. But results showed that the top brand, able to take the most punishment, was the Durex Extra Sensitive Lubricated Latex, according to the report. Other top performers include the Durex Performax Lubricated, Lifestyles Classic Collection Ultra Sensitive Lubricated, and TheyFit Lubricated.
A melon-colored model distributed by Planned Parenthood performed the worst, bursting during a test in which the latex condoms were filled with air. The group says its review of contraceptives was not politically motivated, although there is an intense debate among health professionals and advocacy groups about the focus on abstinence-only education by the Bush administration. "We plan our testing programs quite a while in advance. This is purely accidental," said senior editor Nancy Metcalf.
Consumers Union uses standardized tests to rate the products it examines, which for latex condoms involves filling them with air. There is no accepted method to test silicon or non-latex condoms.
The New York-based organization, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, also tested 16 other contraceptive choices. "Condoms remain the only family planning and pregnancy prevention method that can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, which causes AIDS," the group, which has issued similar reports on condoms periodically since 1979, said in a statement. "Condoms have improved since the mid '90s because industry manufacturing standards have become more universally used and more effective," added Edward Kippel, who led the condom test project. (Reuters)