Sally Hall: Beeping bosoms enhance fear after breast implants scandal

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The scandal of rupturing PIP breast implants has exploded into the news again, after a court ordered a German EU safety licensor to pay compensation to hundreds of women across Europe.

At least 1,700 women (many of them British) will receive an initial payment of 3,000 euros to fund surgery to remove the implants, which have been shown to have a high likelihood of rupturing.

German licensor TUV Rheinland awarded the EU safety certificate to the French producer PIP (Poly Implant Prothese), which was shut down in 2010 following a Europe-wide safety scandal.

Although the industrial silicone used by PIP has not been shown to be toxic or carcinogenic, it is twice as likely to leak as medical grade material.

Some women have experienced serious health effects ranging from loss of sensation in their arms to scarring, pain and inflammation.

In France women have been advised to have the PIP implants removed regardless of whether they’ve experienced ill-effects.

The official line in England is more cautious – although anyone who had surgery on the NHS is eligible to have them removed and replaced on request.

In total, 47,000 women in Britain were fitted with PIP implants. Whether it was reconstructive surgery following breast cancer or a cosmetic procedure, the health scare has highlighted worrying loopholes in safety procedures.

Given the anxiety so many women feel about the state of their décolletage, and the increasing numbers of (ever younger) women opting for cosmetic surgery, this is an important issue.

Subsequent investigations of PIP implants have also highlighted the lengths women will go to for a ‘perfect’ cleavage – especially in an industry notorious for its lax regulation.

For almost a decade now, a website called MyFreeImplants has been matching women desperate for a boost in the bust department with donors willing to fit the bill. The women are asked to pose ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos on the site for their (surely male?) benefactors.

The site features plenty of success stories and testimonials, but I wonder what kind of sleazy bloke seeks out women who are willing to cut open their bodies for the sake of a culturally constructed ideal of beauty?

Even alternative means of enhancing one’s assets are by no means painless.

One of my very talented journalist friends was handed an assignment that suited her svelte silhouette when working for a national tabloid.

She was asked to test a Brava bra, which promised to make the wearer’s boobs bigger – for good.

For 12 long weeks, she smuggled her 34A chest into two enormous suction cups which she had to wear for 10 hours straight every night.

I spent some time with my friend during this assignment and it was an extraordinary sight. With a bosom like Mrs Doubtfire’s looming over her tiny frame, she looked very out of proportion.

As well as costing almost £2,000, the contraption was very noisy.

If she had a cheeky night out, and didn’t manage to wiggle into the suction domes till after midnight, she’d have to wear them for her commute on the train the next day.

Worst of all, an alarm would sound loudly if the suction got disconnected – something that usually happened when her body got sweaty.

Which, on the Underground in rush hour, bodies usually do.

So as well as sticking uncomfortably into the backs and shoulders of her fellow commuters, my friend’s capacious bust would begin to emit loud beeps.

A proper trooper, she stuck it out to the bitter end – and even claimed to have permanently rounder boobs at the end of it (though she still wore the same bra size).

Her experience goes to show that while the PIP scandal is shocking, it’s just the tip of the body modification iceberg.

If women are prepared to undertake their morning commute with beeping bosoms, they must really be desperate.

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