“The injections take just 20 minutes, but they can never fully be taken out,” says Jesús Pereira, the president of the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association. “100 percent of cases become complicated. It could take four days or it could take 20 years, but eventually the patient will become irreversibly sick.”
Because the practice is banned, women seeking the procedure must find a fitness or beauty-related business that offers the injections in secret (most commonly a beauty salon or gym).
The injections cost, on average, just $8.
The average Venezuelan woman spends 20 percent of her annual salary on beauty products, while 4,000 people go under the knife every month in the name of self-improvement. Indeed, most banks in Venezuela offer long-term loan packages specifically tailored towards plastic surgery procedures.
Sadly, it has taken the death of one of the country’s leading anti-biopolymer campaigners to awaken Venezuela to the dangers of these injections.
Mary Perdomo, the president and founder of the NO to Biopolymers, YES to Life foundation, died several weeks ago as a result of the buttock injections she received four years ago. The mother of three had used her worsening illness as a method to teach fellow Venezuelans about the fatal risks the phenomenon poses.
In 2009, Perdomo underwent the standard procedure of having 560cc of the poisonous biopolymer injected into each cheek. Three months later she began to have trouble sleeping and later discovered tumors that had formed in the affected area. In 2012, the health campaigner was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: a direct result of her body’s reaction to the foreign chemicals. She died earlier this month following a heart attack.
Perdomo’s legacy lives on through the various organizations that work to educate young Venezuelans about biopolymers.
“For the past three years I’ve been on a daily cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics, it’s the only way I can live with the pain,” says Astrid de la Rosa, who uses herself as an example as she tours middle schools in the Caracas area.
“More than the physical agony, I was psychologically damaged by what happened to me,” she said. “When the rashes and fevers began, my partner left me, and I was left alone with a 4-year-old child whom I couldn’t support because I couldn’t physically work”.
De la Rosa, along with the NO to Biopolymers foundation, claims the government needs to work harder to educate young Venezuelans about the dangers of liquid silicone, and fight to stop the procedure, which is now classified as a “public health issue,” from being offered in the first place.
“Lamentably, the majority of the people receiving these injections are young women from poorer backgrounds who haven’t been educated to the enormous risks that these injections pose,” Pereira said. “They feel put under pressure by friends or society, and look for quick solutions.”