used silicon implants health insights
October 7, 2013

What Used Silicon Breast Implants Can Tell Us About Our Health

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) found that used breast implants could be used to show which areas of our bodies are polluted. Humans are exposed to small amounts of pollutants every day, and these pollutants can eventually accumulate in the body and disrupt fetal development, decrease muscle and nerve functions, and even cause death. NIVA researchers wrote in the journal Environmental International that silicone breast implants could help provide some reliable data on these pollutants in patient's body.

"We discovered that we can get reliable data on the total body burden of persistent pollutants by analyzing the silicone within the used breast implants," said NIVA research scietist Dr. Ian Allan in a statement. He said using silicone implants could complement the current use of breast milk, blood and other existing sample materials in the search for persistent pollutants that accumulate in the body.

Breast implants have a soft shell containing viscous silicone gel, and they have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years. The researchers say that many of these used implants could be donated to science for research use rather than simply tossed in the trash.

"Current practice is to throw used silicone implants into the trash, but we want to intercept them before that happens, enabling us to preserve and study them in our lab," Dr. Allan said.

Allan and researchers asked if they could analyze the used silicone breast implants of 22 women who were all patients at Colosseumklinikken in Oslo, Norway. The small study showed the potential of breast implants for measuring pollutant levels in the body.

Scientists took thin strips of the silicone breast implants and placed them in water, sediments and air to see whats traces of pollutants they had collected over time.

"Our researchers recently implanted brown trout with silicone, using it as a tool to measure PCB and other chemicals within the living fish. This in turn sparked the idea for research on used silicone breast implants. In an innovation context, this is true out of the box thinking by our researchers, and analysis of used implants can prove to be of extraordinary value to society," NIVA’s Director of Innovation, James Berg said.

Thousands of used silicone implants go straight to landfills every year, so the researchers hope that these breast implants can be intercepted and donated to science to help scientists learn more about how persistent environmental pollutants affect us.

"This is the all-important first step in defeating the enemy that the pollutants represent to us all," Dr. Allan concluded.

Helge E. Roald, a chief physician and specialist in plastic surgery at the clinic used in the study, said this and future studies could help shed light on how pollutants affect our bodies.

"Breast implants are often viewed in a negative light. It is exciting to be part of a study where the implants have a positive effect, by making us smarter about environmental pollutants," Roald said.