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Dow Corning emerges from bankruptcy

Dow Corning Corp. emerged Tuesday after nearly a decade of bankruptcy protection related to thousands of silicone breast implant liability lawsuits.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dow Corning Corp. emerged Tuesday after nearly a decade of bankruptcy protection related to thousands of silicone breast implant liability lawsuits.

As a result, people who claim silicone implants have caused them health problems will begin receiving payments from a $2.35 billion fund that Dow Corning has set aside.

About 170,000 women who received breast implants have filed claims, as well as about 75,000 claimants with other kinds of silicone implants, including joint and facial implants.

The company entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1995 when it was faced with 19,000 lawsuits.

In April, a federal judge gave the green light for the company’s emergence from bankruptcy after a group of Nevada women dropped their opposition to a settlement plan.

“Dow Corning’s emergence from Chapter 11 will allow us to focus squarely on what we do best — providing products, services and business solutions to help our customers succeed,” chairman Gary Anderson said in a statement Tuesday. “We continue to explore high-potential applications for silicone materials and services in a wide variety of industries.”

Since its bankruptcy filing, the company — a joint venture of Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. and Corning, N.Y.-based Corning Inc. — has continued to be a key supplier of silicone for everything from cosmetics and cleaners to cars and buildings. Through new research and development partnerships, it has sought to make itself more integral to the manufacturers that are its primary customers.

People with implants have blamed leaking gel for illnesses including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, body aches, fatigue, memory loss and hardening of the breasts. But the company insists that the silicone-gel implants it made from 1962 until 1992, when they were banned for most uses by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, were safe.

“We are confident that the science shows a clear picture today, through more than 30 independent studies, government and court-appointed panels and numerous court decisions, that breast implants are not associated with disease,” Anderson said. “Nevertheless, we are pleased to be able to put this issue behind us.”

Most major scientific studies haven’t linked implants to serious diseases like lupus or cancer. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine declared there was no evidence that implants cause major illnesses, but warned that breaking, pain and other complications occurred frequently.

Many women’s health advocates say, however, that the safety of implants needs to be studied longer and more thoroughly. And in January, the FDA rejected another company’s bid to bring them back to the market and said it still had serious questions about how often the devices break apart in women’s bodies and what damage the leaking silicone can do.

Dow Corning isn’t planning to make implants again.