Ashleigh Fenn: Breast implants are supposed to make you feel good, are supposed to make you feel happy. I don't know how anyone would want to make a product, knowing that it was toxic, knowing that it was faulty, knowing that it could potentially harm, you know, many women.
Lucy Petagine: I know I had PIP implants and I know this is industrial mattress-filling silicon that my daughter fed through and, you know, I know she has cancer.
RAHNI SADLER: One French entrepreneur.
It's just purely criminal.
There is simply no defence for his actions.
Lucy Petagine: He's almost like a terrorist, isn't he? He was putting bombs into women and he knew that they would rupture, he must have known.
RAHNI SADLER: So why is the Australian Government refusing to order their removal from women here?
Alana Troy: Just because a lot of women buy them for vanity purposes alone, it doesn't make it any less serious or any less important that it be dealt with properly. I never got the implants to have huge boobs that people would stare at. I got the implants so I would have boobs, not sacks of skin.
RAHNI SADLER: Alana Troy is a 33-year-old mother of two. Four years ago, she had implants because her chest was disfigured. And how did you feel after you had the implants?
Alana Troy: Um, new. I felt, um, I felt feminine, I felt beautiful, I felt like I'd been waiting to look like this since puberty started.
RAHNI SADLER: Like 300,000 women around the world, Alana got PIP implants manufactured by a French company run by a former butcher, Jean-Claude Mas. He mass-produced implants cheaper than any on the market but he'd fooled regulators in 65 countries, including Australia. Mas was filling the implants with non-medical grade silicon.
Ashleigh Fenn: It's absolutely disgusting that these things were even approved in the first place.
RAHNI SADLER: Ashleigh Fenn is a mum of three and one of 9,000 Australian women to be given PIP implants.
Ashleigh Fenn: I was quite, you know, flat-chested and I didn't really think I fit my body, because, you know, I didn't suit my body at all.
RAHNI SADLER: And how much better did you feel once you got them?
Ashleigh Fenn: Oh, I felt so good, you know, it helped me, I felt really good about myself.
RAHNI SADLER: But what Ashleigh didn't know, what no woman was ever told, is that the implants Australian regulators had approved were shoddy, prone to rupturing, leaking potentially toxic silicon into their bodies but surgeons loved them because they were so cheap. We did some research and found that the industrial-grade silicon, each implant, cost $2.
Ashleigh Fenn: Are you serious?
RAHNI SADLER: $2 to make.
Ashleigh Fenn: Wow!
RAHNI SADLER: Jean-Claude Mas flooded the market. Then, in 2010, French investigators paid a surprise visit to his factory finding vat after vat of a cheap mattress filler called cyloprine. Mas was arrested, his company went bankrupt but only now is the true extent of the damage to women coming to light. So, what, what is it?
Alana Troy: It's where the silicon leaked out of the implant of the side and it's filled into the breast tissue. You can feel, like - go from there, feel from there up. You can feel the difference.
RAHNI SADLER: Yeah, yeah. It is barely noticable, though, but to you, you can feel.
Alana Troy: I can, because the other one's not like that.The other one's just smooth and normal. It wasn't what I planned. Sorry.
RAHNI SADLER: It's alright. You just don't know what it's gonna do to you, do you?
Alana Troy: No, it's really scary. Um, um, you know, when Dr Cooper, He operated for free to take the implants out. I think I was the 25th or 26th woman that he'd worked on in a month to get them out of. You know, he was just brilliant.
RAHNI SADLER: How would you feel if it did turn out that these implants had caused...
Dr Tim Cooper: Harm?
RAHNI SADLER: Hmm.
Dr Tim Cooper: Terrible. That's not what medicine's about.
RAHNI SADLER: Reassured by the approval given by Australia's Therapeutic Goods administration, Perth plastic surgeon Tim Cooper recommended the implants to his patients but as time passed, he got scared. In July 2011, he wrote to warn the TGA.
Dr Tim Cooper: I made them aware that I thought there was too high a rupture rate.
RAHNI SADLER: What response did you get?
Dr Tim Cooper: It was basically "Thank you for the information "and keep us updated and could you let your colleagues know?"
RAHNI SADLER: What was your reaction to their reply?
Dr Tim Cooper: I was a bit surprised, I guess. But, um...
RAHNI SADLER: Why?
Dr Tim Cooper: I thought they might be a little bit more interested.
RAHNI SADLER: But the TGA did nothing. Six months after Dr Cooper warned them, the TGA was advising Australian women: Though the product had been withdrawn from the market after the French raids...no assistance was offered to Australian women, including breast cancer patients, to have the leaking implants removed and replaced. When a French woman with PIP implants died of cancer late last year, the fear spread.
Alana Troy: When you look at studies that they say where they've injected silicon into mice and rats and if it's gone straight to their liver and straight to their kidneys so I think "OK, I've had silicon floating around in my body - "do I need to go and get that checked?" you know? And there's nothing you can do.
Lucy Petagine: He knew what he was doing from the day he created those things. I mean, he knew that they would rupture, he must have known.
RAHNI SADLER: London mother, Lucy Petagine was one of the first to get PIPs in 2001. It was in 2007, shortly after giving birth to her second child, Luna, that Lucy was told both her implants had burst. She asked whether she should stop breast feeding but her doctors told her not to worry. So they expressed no concern?
Lucy Petagine: No, no, I've even got a letter in black and white that says, "Complete rupture of right implant. "Please return when you finish breast feeding to discuss further."
RAHNI SADLER: At 18 months, Luna began showing worrying signs. She was sleepy, unresponsive, but still, doctors were unconcerned.
Lucy Petagine: They kept saying there was nothing wrong, it was viral, it was viral, and the last time we went to A&E, we said to them "This isn't viral. "You need to admit her and watch her for 24 hours, "otherwise you can admit me to the funny farm "because I'm going nuts here." There's something really wrong with my little girl.
RAHNI SADLER: It was a fast-growing brain tumour. 5-year-old Luna has little time left. Her mum and dad, brother and sister, treasure every moment with her.
Lucy Petagine: One of my friends said to me, "Do you think what's happened to Luna "could be anything to do with the PIPs?" I was like "Oh my God, I would just want to die "if I just thought this was my vanity's doing". I know I had PIP implants and I know they were ruptured and I know that I fed her and I know that this was industrial mattress-filling silicon that my daughter fed through.
Ashleigh Fenn: I knew I had the PIP implants but I didn't know they were toxic at that point.
RAHNI SADLER: Ashleigh has similar fears for the health of her children. Her two youngest were both breast fed after she'd had the implants.
Ashleigh Fenn: Well, my eldest, he's very big and he's healthy. My two youngest, they've had a lot of health problems and they have been very sick from the get-go.
RAHNI SADLER: And they are quite small for their age?
Ashleigh Fenn: They are, they are very small for their age.
RAHNI SADLER: Tell me about the problems you had with your second - they were really quite serious.
Ashleigh Fenn: I was 11 weeks pregnant and I was rushed into the hospital and I was told that I had blood poisoning, septicaemia and that I was dying.
Ashleigh Fenn: Um... (WHISPERS) I'm sorry. Can I get a tissue?
RAHNI SADLER: Yeah, you can get a tissue.
Lucy Petagine: It's hard, you know, if I did do this. Everything she's been through would be all my fault - that would be just too much to bear. What if it turns out that PIP could do this. Are you gonna hate me?
Mr Petagine: It's, you know, you can't change anything.
Lucy Petagine: Well, no, but I was the one who fed her knowing they were ruptured. I just can't believe I didn't think.
RAHNI SADLER: But your doctors told you it was safe.
Lucy Petagine: I know, I know. You did everything. Honestly, I didn't have a second thought. I didn't...I didn't have a second thought.
RAHNI SADLER: One week ago, Ashleigh Fenn had her leaking implants removed and replaced with a safe model.
Ashleigh Fenn: It's going to be such a relief to get the implants out so I'm really happy and really excited that the worry's going to be over.
RAHNI SADLER: It's a delicate operation.
Michael Miroshnik: So the first thing we're gonna encounter is the capsule.
RAHNI SADLER: Performed by plastic surgeon, Michael Miroshnik, who has never used PIP implants in his practice.
Michael Miroshnik: OK, here we go.
RAHNI SADLER: Got it?
Michael Miroshnik: Yep, got it.
RAHNI SADLER: Is that one ruptured? Ashleigh's faulty implants are oozing silicon.
Michael Miroshnik: Both sides being ruptured, same place in 5-year-old implants.
RAHNI SADLER: How often would you see a patient with two ruptures after five years?
Michael Miroshnik: Pretty much never. It's pretty rare. I've never seen it before.
RAHNI SADLER: If your mother or your sister or your girlfriend had these, would you tell her to take them out?
Michael Miroshnik: Yes, I would, because we just don't know anything about these implants which are made from lower-grade silicon and I would rather have them out.
RAHNI SADLER: This is exactly the policy of the French Government who are not only urging 30,000 women to return to their surgeons, but they're offering to pay for the removal of the implants. Here in Australia, though, the TGA is doing no such thing.
Dr.Tim Cooper: I'm a bit pissed off that they are not telling you publicly that there is a problem. My other home truth, I think, is that this may turn out to be a storm in a tea cup. I hope it is.
RAHNI SADLER: Sure, sure.
Dr.Tim Cooper: I hope it is.
RAHNI SADLER: Yeah. But why take the chance?
Dr.Tim Cooper: So my current practice is to take out all the ruptured implants, no question. The non-ruptured ones, if a woman is psychologically affected, then, you know, take the device out. Then they can sleep at night-time.
RAHNI SADLER: And he does it free of charge. In your darkest hours now, what goes through your head?
Alana Troy: If something does happen, I've got a 14-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son and I made the choice. I made the choice to get implants and I feel a lot of guilt. And they're good kids, you know? The professor from the TGA who said that there's no known riskor, you know, there's no real reason for women to have them out, would he put them in his daughter? If she had those implants in her body, would his decision have been different? If it was his wife? You know? I know, I know it would. And there are women out there who don't even know they've got them in and it's...It's not right, it's not fair. It's been an interesting day today, hasn't it? Why are we any less important than the women in Argentina and Britain and France and Germany and, oh, the Australian mentality is "She'll be right, mate," but not when it comes to your health. You've only got one life.