New Jersey doctors uncovered a black market of cosmetic butt enhancement injections when half a dozen women showed up at hospitals with skin infections and abscesses on their bottoms this week.
State health officials are still trying to discover who was responsible for the dangerous infections, and what substance was being injected into the women's rear ends.
"By state regulation hospitals and health care providers are supposed to report any unusual outbreaks," said Dr. Tina Tan, a New Jersey state epidemiologist.
"This was certainly unusual," she said. "We're still not entirely sure what was injected."
It's not the first time a group of women ended up in the hospital with a mysterious substance injected into their behinds.
"Usually it's industrial silicone, it's the stuff that you buy at Home Depot," said Dr. Renato Saltz, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Tan has also seen reports of caulk and petroleum jelly injected in black market cosmetic procedure rings.
In January 2009, authorities in Tampa, Fla., arrested Sharhonda Lindsay, 33, for allegedly injecting two acquaintances' with a product believed to be a homemade combination of commercial silicone gel and saline. The women apparently went to Lindsay to enhance the appearance of their buttocks, according to police reports.
According to Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff's Department, one of the two women who received the injections paid $500 for 40 injections into her buttocks, and the other paid $250 for 20 injections.
J.D. Callaway, another spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department, said Lindsay -- who is not a doctor -- has been charged with two counts of practicing medicine without a license. The charge is a third-degree felony that he said could carry a sentence of five years in prison.
Several calls to Lindsay's listed home phone number showed that the number had been disconnected.
Saltz warned that injecting unsanitary, unregulated materials can frequently result in serious medical problems. "They cause tissue death, they can migrate to your lungs and kill you," said Saltz.
Tan said the women investigated in New Jersey are recovering from their infections well. But in the Florida case, the homemade injections had one mother fearing for her daughter's life.
Andrea Lee, 30, and Zakiya Teagle Carswell, 33, both were hospitalized at Tampa's Town and Country Hospital after suffering severe reactions to the shots they received at the hands of Lindsay on Jan. 29, 2009.
Lee's mother, Doretha Belnavis, said her daughter began feeling ill around 3 a.m. the day after the injections. Belnavis said her daughter was admitted to the hospital at around 7 a.m., and doctors treated her for life-threatening damage to her kidneys.
Belnavis said she hopes her daughter's case serves as a warning to others.
"I hope this educates the community and also people having these procedures of the side effects and everything that they can have doing these procedures," she said. "Going to someone who is unprofessional and unlicensed is committing suicide, because you don't know what you're getting. It's playing Russian roulette with your life."
Saltz said it's unclear whether doctors are dealing with an actual increase of illegal buttock injections, or whether news media have gotten wise to the problem.