U.S. officials warn that terrorists may fill breast implants with detonating devices

July 18, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security hasn't warned of a specific plot, but travelers may notice increased security measures.
The Department of Homeland Security hasn't warned of a specific plot, but travelers may notice increased security measures.

A recent report from U.S. officials says that militants from al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch may attempt to surgically implant explosive devices in the bodies of suicide bombers. The Wall Street Journal, July 7th, reports that because of this new intelligence the Obama administration has warned foreign governments and American and international airline executives that terrorists might attempt to board planes with explosives concealed in their bodies.

The concern is that breast, pectoral or buttock implants, commonly filled with saline and implanted by plastic surgeons for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes, could instead be filled with explosives.

So, is this feasible? A New York plastic surgeon, trained in the military, says that implantation could be accomplished with rudimentary medical training, outside a medical facility and using local anesthesia. A sharp pen-like object filled with a triggering chemical could be used to penetrate the skin and detonate the explosive. Also, since breast implants are so common, they probably wouldn't cause suspicion in security personnel. Explosive devices could also be implanted in other bodily areas, for example, near the heart where pacemakers are located. But in body cavities like the rectum, where implants are not typically placed, an implant would raise a red flag.

A recipient could theoretically be mobile within days of implant surgery and walk around with internal explosive substances for several weeks without consequence. The volume of explosive substance that could be implanted this way has the potential to do damage; a large breast implant commonly holds about 16 ounces.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn't warned of a specific plot, but TSA spokesman Nick Kimball said that "passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place," including more interactions between security agents and passengers. Because our new full-body screening scanners would probably not have the capacity to identify implanted explosive devices, many security experts are urging alternative measures, including profiling passenger behavior and demeanor. 

The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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