A “special report” from Reuters.
In March 2010, a pair of health inspectors acting on a tip paid a three-day visit to a factory in this hilly town on the Mediterranean coast.
The factory was the headquarters of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), a leading international maker of breast implants founded by French entrepreneur Jean-Claude Mas. The inspectors found something odd: six discarded plastic containers of Silopren, a liquid silicone designed for industrial, not medical use, lined up along the outside wall of the production site.
A week later, gendarmes descended on the plant. Mas skipped out just ahead of them, eluding interrogation for nearly eight months, but his game was up. In the nearly two years since, the cheap silicone used in PIP’s fake breasts has continued to leach into women’s bodies. In France, 1,262 of the roughly 300,000 breast implants the company sold worldwide have split open in the past two years. PIP has been closed down, Mas has been arrested and put under investigation for alleged bodily harm, and French and European safety regulators have been thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight.
Mas, 72, a grocer’s son from the south of France, had no scientific training. Yet for the first decade of this century he was able to manufacture and sell faulty breast implants on international markets that he and some of his employees knew to be substandard, according to testimony given to French police and seen by Reuters…