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VeriChip Defends the Safety of Implanted RFID Tags

There is no evidence, the company maintains, to support the notion that implanting RFID chips in animals or humans causes tumors.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 12, 2007News reports linking implanted RFID transponders to tumors in lab mice are erroneous and misleading, according to Applied Digital Solutions, a manufacturer of implantable RFID tags, and two of its subsidiaries, Digital Angel and VeriChip. The companies claim there is no evidence to support the notion that the injection of RFID chips under the skin causes tumors of any sort. They bolster this assertion by noting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved VeriChip's VeriMed RFID tag for use in humans, that millions of animals have had tags implanted under their skin without developing any tumors and that the mere act of having a hypodermic injection can cause tumors in lab mice.

The initial news article, written by Todd Lewan, a reporter for the Associated Press (AP), first appeared in newspapers and online on Sept. 8. In his article, Lewan wrote: "A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had 'induced' malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats. 'The transponders were the cause of the tumors,' said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining in a phone interview the findings of a 1996 study he led at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich. Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for the Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans, said the findings troubled them."

Lawrence McGill
The AP story was based, in part, on studies supplied to Lewan by RFID critic Katherine Albrecht, director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN). Albrecht has blamed the incidence of cancerous tumors in lab mice on the implanting of RFID transponders under the skin for tracking purposes. In addition, Albrecht has claimed that a French bulldog died from cancer caused by an RFID transponder in 2004, one year after the tag was implanted.

In response to the original AP story and subsequent news coverage, VeriChip released several scientific papers to the press. One such paper was based on research conducted in conjunction with Sandoz Research Institute, now part of pharmaceutical maker Novartis, which found no connection between the incidence of sarcomas (a type of cancerous tumor) and the implantation of RFID tags.

Typically, the RFID tags manufactured by Digital Angel for use in animals, and by VeriChip for implantation in humans, consist of a passive RFID chip and antenna encased in glass. The tags are about the size and shape of a grain of rice and come encoded with a unique identifying number. The tag transmits the ID as an RF signal only when an RFID interrogator is placed close to it. At all other times, the device remains dormant.

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