A recent study by Oregon State University researchers suggests that silicone breast implants could absorb harmful chemicals that would otherwise reside in bodily tissue.
In research published last month in the journal Environmental International, environmental chemist Kim Anderson and OSU researchers found that removed silicone implants had absorbed 14 common chemical compounds.
Each of the eight implants screened during the study showed traces of caffeine, while p,p’-DDE, a suspected carcinogenic byproduct of the banned insecticide DDT, was found in five samples.
Researchers also inserted silicone discs into anesthetized laboratory mice as part of the study, then evaluated the presence of p,p’-DDE and PCB 118 — an industrial chemical and suspected carcinogen — nine days after those compounds were injected into the mice.
The mouse tissue and silicone discs each showed evidence of both substances, which Anderson said could show that the compounds passed between the tissue and silicone until they achieved a balance.
Silicone was previously known to absorb organic-based pollutants in a similar manner as human cells, and the study was partly inspired by studies showing a reduced risk of breast cancer among implant recipients.
Anderson cautioned that the study doesn't indicate protection against any disease, but she said discarded implants could prove useful in determining human exposure to chemicals.
“Tens of thousands of implants are removed from women every year, and they’re typically burned as waste,” Anderson said. “Instead, they could be an important resource for quantifying the types and amounts of environmental chemicals absorbed by the human body and for assessing long-term toxic exposure.”