France took a costly and unprecedented leap Friday in offering to pay for 30,000 women to have their breast implants removed because of mounting fears the products could rupture and leak cheap, industrial-grade silicone into the body. Tens of thousands of other women elsewhere in Europe and in South America have the same French-made implants, but authorities there have so far refused to follow suit. The silicone-gel implants in question are not sold in the U.S.
Over the past week, the safety fears have created a public furor over something usually kept private, even in France. Women, some whose own families didn't know they had their breasts enlarged, marched on Paris to demand more attention to worries about what might be happening inside them. Images of leaky, blubbery implants and women having mammograms have been splashed on French TV. More than 1,000 ruptures pushed Health Minister Xavier Bertrand to recommend that the estimated 30,000 women in France with the implants get them removed at the state's expense.