Police investigate toxic bust gel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

Health chiefs may ban cancer-causing material used in the treatment to safeguard public health

Police and medical authorities have launched an investigation into a bust enhancement gel that has been blamed for at least six Hong Kong women losing their breasts.

The development in the gel saga was revealed in a paper prepared for legislators, as the government said it was considering a ban on imports of hydrophilic polyacrylamide, known as PAAG.

The Health Department wants to contact women who have had the treatment since a Consumer Council report revealed that the gel could cause cancer.

The department said 95 women had come forward, 41 of whom had complained of suffering an adverse reaction to the treatment, which the council report said could include bruising, swelling and pain.

Of the 41, eight had received the treatment in Hong Kong. The breast augmentation injections are commonly used on the mainland.

'As it is suspected that illegal medical practice is involved in these cases, the department has referred them to police,' it said.

Last night police said details could not be revealed as an investigation was under way.

The department said it had contacted mainland officials to discuss measures to strengthen protection of public health.

'Possible measures will include the suspension of approval for the production of PAAG and a ban on the use of [the gel] injection for breast augmentation in the mainland, as well as a ban on its import into Hong Kong,' the department said. Importation and use of the gel are not controlled under existing legislation.

Other measures, short of a total ban, also are being considered.

The department said it was seeking legal advice on how to control PAAG imports to ensure that importers would be required to keep sales records to help in any follow-up action.

'The administration will also consider introducing a requirement in the proposed amendment to restrict its sale to registered medical practitioners,' the department added. The Customs and Excise Department has been advised of a case in which a beauty parlour advertised that PAAG had been registered with health authorities for clinical use in Hong Kong.

As a result, customs officers seized about 50 bottles of substance suspected to be the gel and the department was considering prosecution, the paper said.

The Consumer Council's disclosures of the dangers drew a public outcry in Hong Kong and across the border. Growing numbers of victims have come out to condemn the use of the substance, commonly known as 'amazing gel' on the mainland.

The State Food and Drug Administration announced at a public hearing in Beijing that it would withdraw a company's licence to make the gel. The mainland administration added that it might legislate to bring PAAG under a regulation level that would stipulate 'medicine supervision and administration by departments above the provincial level'.