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Despite risk of death, disfigurement, some get black-market silicone injections

Clara Tolentino was terrified when her 43-year-old sister died last year after getting liquid silicone injections to add a bit more shape to her buttocks.

The 35-year-old Tolentino had good reason to be. In 2006, she paid $2,000 to get liquid silicone injections, too.

“I didn’t do it as many times as my sister … But I was afraid,” said the Dominican woman who lives in the Bronx. “I was afraid that something was going to happen to me.”

Her sister, Fiordaliza Pichardo, died in March. According to an autopsy, about 1,400 milligrams of silicone were in her lungs. Fresh injection sites dotted her thighs and buttocks. The New York City medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was silicone pulmonary embolism.

In the United States, liquid silicone is not approved for cosmetic injections. It can kill, disfigure and cause long-term health problems. Still, it is avidly sought on the black market by untrained providers for those women who desire rounder breasts, buttocks and more shapely thighs.

Especially notorious are “pump-up parties,” where people, often members of the male-to-female transgender community, gather for liquid silicone injections in hopes of feminizing their appearance.

According to a study reported at the 2006 meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, 11 women or transsexuals suffered silicone pulmonary embolism and died after getting liquid silicone injections. The study included 44 people over a 15-year period.

“Every single complication we found was associated with this illegal type of use,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. C. Santiago Restrepo, a professor of radiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio “Unfortunately, since this is an illegal practice, it’s very difficult to know how widespread or what the numbers are.”

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not keep data on injuries or deaths caused by illicit cosmetic injections.

“There are regulatory gaps and issues that we need to start working on from a public health perspective,” said the CDC’s Dr. Priti Patel. She was among investigators sent to North Carolina in 2007 after three women suffered kidney failure following cosmetic injections of possible liquid silicone. Read more..

 

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