Vietnam Confiscates Over 300,000 Recycled Condoms for Sale

HANOI, Vietnam — The police in Vietnam have seized more than 300,000 used condoms that had been boiled, dried and put up for sale in a southern province, shutting down a business that posed a health hazard to consumers.

Officers who raided a warehouse in the province of Binh Duong on Saturday found the recycled condoms in bags weighing almost 800 pounds, the state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Footage broadcast by the state-owned Vietnam Television showed thousands of prophylactics spilling out of bags on the floor. It was unclear what led to the police raid, but news reports said officers had received a tip from a local resident.

The police arrested a woman in connection with the operation, Pham Thi Thanh Ngoc, who told the authorities that she had received a monthly delivery from an unknown person and had been paid the equivalent of 17 cents for about every two pounds she recycled, local news outlets reported.

She told the police that the condoms had been recycled through a process of boiling, drying and reshaping them using a wooden prosthesis.

It was not known how long the business had been in operation or how many condoms had been sold. It was unclear if the woman had been charged with a crime.

Condoms are designed to be disposed of after use, and reusing them can lead to breakage, slipping or leakage. The risks are greatly multiplied if they are used by more than one person, and can lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Anh Nguyen, an obstetrician from Dak Lak, said that recycling used condoms was “very dangerous to society.”

“For profit they can spread sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea and possibly H.I.V.,” she said in an interview of the warehouse business. “This must be prevented.”

But recycling condoms is not unheard-of among sex workers, especially in developing countries, experts say.

“It’s not impossible to wash a condom,” said Juliet Richters, a sexual health expert and honorary professor at the University of New South Wales. But “it’s never happened, to my knowledge, on an industrial scale,” she said.

Professor Richters said that they would be difficult to recycle without equipment to roll up and repackage the condoms to pass them off as new. She said it was unclear what impact boiling the condoms would have on their integrity.

In 2007, doctors in China warned against using rubber bands that had been manufactured from used condoms because they could lead to the spread of H.I.V. — the virus that causes AIDS — and other sexually transmitted diseases.

A representative of the Binh Duong Department of Health said health officials had not received any information from provincial officials or requests for assistance in the investigation. Tran Van Tung, a Binh Duong official, said that since this was the first time the province had been aware of used condoms being recycled for sale, the authorities needed to clearly define their legal case.

Binh Duong Province, outside the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, is littered with industrial zones where factories manufacture consumer goods for export and domestic consumption. In 2014, workers burned dozens of foreign-owned factories in the province as part a wave of protests against China’s stationing of an oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam’s coast.

Chau Doan reported from Hanoi, Vietnam, and Livia Albeck-Ripka from Darwin, Australia. Mike Ives contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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