A former head of a silicone implant company is under investigating for jeopardizing the health of French women who received the implants.
A former head of a silicone implant company is under investigating for jeopardizing the health of French women who received the implants. - 

Adriene Hill: Faulty European breast implants were made with industrial-grade silicone instead of medical-grade gel. The scandal has been unfolding over the last few weeks, and today, the head of the French company that produced them was arrested. The worry: the implants could rupture and leak and make women sick.

For more we have the BBC's Hugh Schofield with us live from Paris. Good morning.

Hugh Schofield: Good morning, Adriene.

Hill: Help our listeners understand what exactly is going on here -- what's the scope of this problem?

Schofield: We know that this company, PIP, has been producing low-grade breast implants. It went out of business, the company, a year or so ago. And what's happened since is that a big health scare has grown up around it, with some women complaining of basic problems like leakage and irritation and so on. But a group of women worried that it could be more serious -- that there could be a link with cancer.

And that's why this arrest has come, because there's a judicial case launched now against the company, against the man Jean-Claude Mas, for personal injury. He's been placed under investigation on a suspicion of charging damage to the bodies of women.

Hill: Now I understand there's some question about who will pay for the removal of a lot of these implants -- is that right?

Schofield: That's separately what's happening, that's the non-judicial aspect of this, had to clear up what's happened. And there are differences in different countries -- this is an international problem, let's not forget.

Here in France the government has stepped in and said the 30,000 or so women who have had the implants can have them removed at the expense of the taxpayer, basically. They're saying that there's nothing urgent; there's no proof of a link with cancer. But it's clear that they are substandard, therefore, the government is stepping in to pay for that.

In other countries, for example, like in Britain, they're saying, yes, we agree these implants are substandard, but there's no sign of any significant or serious health risk beyond irritation. So consult your doctor. If they say you need it then go ahead, but certainly, we the government are not going to pay for it.

Hill: The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris, thanks.

Schofield: Thank you.

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