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1992: US halts breast implants
The United States Government has advised doctors to suspend the use of silicone breast implants pending an investigation into their safety.

The move has raised fears around the world that silicone breast implants could leak or rupture, causing injury or illness.

The US Food and Drug Administration said surgeons should stop operating for 45 days while new evidence was examined by a special advisory panel.

Last November, the FDA received 2,500 complaints from women who experienced problems such as persistent pain, ruptures, hardening of breast tissue and recurrent ill health.

We are still waiting for any evidence that stands up to scientific scrutiny that there is any danger from these implants.
Dr Paul Levick, National Hospital for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Many British surgeons have accused the US Government of scaremongering. They insist that breast implants are safe, with few side-effects reported since they were introduced 30 years ago.

"There's a lot of hysteria appearing and there's a lot of misleading results," said Paul Levick of the National Hospital for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. "We are still waiting for any evidence that stands up to scientific scrutiny that there is any danger from these implants."

At least two million women in America are said to have breast implants - 80% for cosmetic reasons.

In the UK, about 100,000 women have had breast augmentation operations and about half of those were carried out to reconstruct the breast after surgery to remove cancer.

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Hands holding silicone implant
Silicone implants first came into use in the 1960s


In Context
Manufacturers were unable to provide enough data on the safety of their products so to this day the FDA has a moratorium on the use of silicone implants except for women who need breast reconstruction.

There is no such ban in the UK and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic continue to reassure women who already had silicone implants that there was no immediate danger to their health and that they should not have them removed.

In 1994 the three largest producers of silicone breast implants agreed to pay $4.75 billion to women harmed by their products. The settlement came to nothing and Dow Corning, the biggest of the three, filed for bankruptcy in 1995 under the weight of lawsuits brought against it.

In November 2001, following pressure from groups representing women concerned about the effects of silicone on the body, the European Commission set up safety procedures governing breast implants but ruled out a total ban.

Silicone gel breast implants were first used in 1962.

Only silicone gel breast implants and saline-filled breast implants are available for use in the UK. Hydrogel-filled breast implants have been withdrawn from the UK market as a precautionary measure.

In the UK around 10,000 women have breast implants each year

80% of those are silicone.

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