RFID: a danger to your health?
This is Leon. He’s a cute looking 9-year old French bull dog. But he’s no longer with us. He died in 2004 of a tumor. Big deal you might say: lots of animals die of tumors and other things. But Leon could quite possibly save humans from suffering the same fate. You see, Leon had an RFID chip embedded in his neck for identification purposes. Leon lived in Canada and his owner “Jeanne” believed there was a causal link between the chip and Leon’s sad death. So she sought answers and uncovered a lot of suspicious stuff.
In a previous post, I told you how RFID chips have been implanted in humans and how companies in the microchip business are salivating at the thought of how many millions they can chip for medical monitoring purposes. I thought it was all pretty experimental and maybe only 10 or so people around the world are wandering around with embedded chips in their bodies.
Not so it seems. According to an Associated Press article, about 2,000 RFID chips have been implanted into humans worldwide. Unless some people have multiple chips, I guess it means 2,000 individuals are walking around with a potential time bomb in their bodies. Why?
Back to Leon. Italian researchers studied tissue from Leon and found a possible connection between the chip and the tumor. It is possible that tumors form between one month and three years after chips are implanted and the tumors locate themselves in the area of inflammation created by the microchip. Further, veterinary and toxicology studies between 1996 and 2006 found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed subcutaneous “sarcomas” — malignant tumors, most of them encasing the implants. And a 2006 study in France detected tumors in 4.1% of 1,260 microchipped mice.
VeriChip is the US company eager to gain access to millions of people so they can be implanted with microchips for medical monitoring purposes. The argument is that tiny microchips will allow medical staff to scan a patient’s medical records. I’ve raised the prospect in my earlier post of whether we might face a future where the chipped get quicker medical treatment than the unchipped with the argument being that they can be treated faster because of instant access to medical data and lives could be saved.
VeriChip pushed for US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval of microchips in 2005. Seems VeriChip suffered a memory lapse though – they failed to disclose the veterinary and toxicology studies that link RFID chips to cancer in animals. They denied knowing about said studies despite Spychips.org (who were helping Leon’s owner) being able to easily find three studies in the Harvard library that support a cancer-microchip link in animals.
Cancer specialists who were consulted for the AP article cautioned that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans. Nevertheless, they found the results troubling and a number of them apparently said they would not allow themselves or family members to be chipped. The FDA also apparently denies knowing of the animal studies. Of course, VeriChip insists that RFID chips are perfectly safe.
But there’s a really interesting connection here that AP brought to light. The FDA is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. This department was headed by Tommy Thompson at the time the FDA approved VeriChip’s submission to implant chips in humans. Shortly after the approval took effect in January 2005, Thompson left the department and reappeared as? A board member of VeriChip Corp and Applied Digital Solutions (VeriChip’s parent company). He was compensated in cash and stock options.
VeriChip won approval for implanting in humans an electronic capsule the size of two grains of rice. It is implanted with a syringe into an anesthetized portion of the upper arm and the chips transmit a unique code. The idea behind medical profiling is that hospital staff can go on the Internet and access a patient’s medical profile using the unique code. A database of medical information is provided by VeriChip for an annual fee – imagine the money to be made if medical chipping becomes the norm.
I’m not sure if there have been longitudinal studies following chipped animals over say a 15 year period or if animals larger than mice have been purposely studied for a causal link between chipping and cancer. Or if veterinarians have reported cases of cancer in chipped pets.
But thank goodness the California Senate has just passed a bill that will protect people from having RFID tags forcibly implanted. RFID manufacturers did not support the bill. Wonder why!
You can read more about the RFID tumor story over at the Threat Level blog. And if you want to read the various studies in support of a cancer-microchip link in animals, go to the Noble Leon site – a memorial to Leon.
UPDATE: March 2010 Dogs suffer cancer after ID chipping
Leon photo credit: Threat Level blog.