Bust-enhancement gel use to be restricted to doctors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 April, 2006, 12:00am

Health authorities intend to allow only doctors to use a bust-enhancement gel blamed for at least six Hong Kong women losing their breasts, but they will not ban it outright because of its other uses such as reducing wrinkles.

The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau is also proposing that a temporary system be put in place this year to track gel importers.

By Wednesday, 119 women had told the Department of Health they had received injections of hydrophilic polyacrylamide, also known as PAAG, to enlarge their breasts, with 51 reporting complications. Police said they were aware of three instances of people receiving illegal gel injections in Hong Kong.

Speaking to Legco's health services panel, Deputy Health Secretary Susie Ho Shuk-yee said a short-term solution was needed to regulate treatment.

'While waiting for the legislative process, we are considering a temporary measure of setting up a system to control the import of PAAG. That would take a shorter time and could be done in this legislative year by amending the existing legislation on imports and exports. So we would have a system to trace the material ... It's not the most ideal way to tackle the problem but it is the speediest way,' Ms Ho said.

There is no legislation controlling the importing and use of the gel, which the Consumer Council says could cause cancer. Ms Ho said the government had a long-term plan to restrict the use of PAAG to doctors only, but the legislation would not be passed quickly.

'Of course, it would be a lot easier if the medical sector confirmed that it did not need PAAG at all, so we could ban it completely. But I believe the gel still has its functions. So our purpose is to make sure that the material would go only to doctors instead of somebody else.'

According to the bureau, PAAG is approved for dermal fillings, or injections to define shape and contour, in the European Union, Canada, Australia, some Eastern European countries and the mainland, but is banned in the United States. Only a few Eastern European countries and the mainland allow people to receive the treatment for enlarging breasts.

Henry Chan Hin-lee, representing the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the gel was used by some plastic surgeons to remove wrinkles. 'It is unfortunate the government has yet to set up a law to control the use of PAAG and other medical devices even though public discussion has been going on for years.'

Federation of Beauty Industry chairman Nelson Ip Sai-hung accused the medical sector of unfairly passing blame. Mr Ip said: 'Our understanding is that some doctors have business links to beauty parlours to carry out cosmetic surgeries.'

He said doctors used the connections with the parlours to get around the ban on advertising their services. 'But doctors start to point fingers at us when there are complaints.'