Case Study: Dow Corning and the Silicone Breast Implant Controversy

Essay by ricconyUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2004

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Brief History

An equal joint venture between Dow Chemical and Corning Glass Works in 1943 created a company to produce silicones for commercial applications. This company was called Dow Corning. In 1930 while Corning researchers were working on possible applications of silicone in glass makings they had developed several resins, fluids, and rubber compounds that could withstand the extremes of hot and cold temperatures. It was 1940 when Corning approached Dow Chemical with the proposal for a joint venture.

By 1942, a small plant in Midland, Michigan, had begun producing silicones for military applications. Within ten years the new company developed more than 600 products and the size of the firm had doubled in size three times. This growth made it one of the fastest growing firms in the chemical industry. Though most of the products developed by Dow Corning were for industrial use by the 1950s Dow Corning scientist had developed several implantable devices for medical applications.

By the early 1960s Dow Corning engineers had developed the first prototype of a breast implant. They encapsulated a firm density silicone with a silicone rubber bag. This product was initially marketed in 1963 as the Cronin implant, and was used almost exclusively in the reconstructive surgery of breast cancer patients who had received a mastectomy, which is the surgical removal of the breast.

However by 1990, the cosmetic surgery to enlarge healthy and normal breasts was increasing gradually. The one factor that the breast augmentation surgery grew was due to the increase of the plastic surgery profession which occurred from military surgeons who reentered into civilian life and started plastic surgery programs in their home communities. The number of plastic surgeons increased significantly with hardly a demand for cosmetic surgery. With the approval of the Federal Trade Commission, the American...