What Happens When PIP Breast Implants Break or Leak?

Big fake breasts. Big regrets. Image source: toonpool.com

Does the current ‘global’ scare over French breast implants affect you? Yes, it does affect you, if you are one of 300,000 to 400,000 women in any of the 65 countries whose surgeon used a silicone implant made by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).

And yes, the issue does affect you if are one of almost 300,000 American women or 1.5 million women worldwide who have had a breast augmentation in 2010, or among the countless more who have had this procedure between 2005 and 2010.

If you are one of these women, you might want to find out if your implant was made by PIP, which offered the world’s cheapest silicone gel implants up until the time it was shuttered in 2010.

Even if you are just mulling over having a boob job, you will still benefit from paying close attention to how the scandal is resolved, and the accompanying discussions on breast implant safety.

If you are one of 230,000 American women or more than one million women worldwide who will develop breast cancer this year, according to health statistics, the issue is also yours, as you may have to undergo a mastectomy and a subsequent breast reconstruction.

The global PIP scare also concerns men as it recently emerged that thousands of contaminated false chests, buttocks—and even testicles for use by prostate cancer victims or those born with only one testicle—were sold by PIP for use by men.

Over the holidays, widespread anxiety over the safety of breast implants made and sold by PIP since 1998 exploded, when French health authorities advised some 30,000 French women to have their implants removed because of their higher tendency to rupture—and offered to cover for the costs.

French authorities made the announcement following the results of an investigation into the PIP breast implants begun in 2010.

All implants can rupture, and all breast implants have a ‘shelf life’ of at most 10 years. But the French probe found that the PIP implants have a higher rupture rate of five percent.

The French Health Products Safety Agency (Afssaps) says it has registered 1,143 ruptures and 495 inflammatory reactions from the implants. Mechanical testing by French authorities has also shown the implant covers to have an increased risk of rupturing.

The inquiry also found that since 2005, PIP implants were made using non-medical grade silicone gel—different from the kind it used to get the approval of French health authorities. PIP even stopped using a protective barrier in its implants.

The silicone gel breast implants approved by the United States Food and Drug Agency and other global health regulation agencies are made of medical grade material that has passed safety tests for human use. The silicone gel in PIP implants was made from material intended for use in mattresses.

The PIP products were banned in France, the United Kingdom, Czechoslovakia and many other European countries in 2010 when news that industrial grade silicone was used in the fillers first broke.

A chemical analysis done for the French radio station RTL showed that the PIP implants also contained a fuel additive called Baysilone, normally used by the oil or rubber industries.

André Picot, the toxicologist who conducted the analysis said this material, as well the industrial silicones Silopren and Rhodorsil, had caused the PIP silicone gel implants to rupture at a higher rate. PIP denied the report, saying Baysilone was not industrial but a food product used in lipstick.

But tests run by the French government have not shown any increased risk of toxicity from PIP fillers compared to normal implants.