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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
In a telephone interview, Digital Angel's chief technology officer, Zeke Mejia, cites several reasons why the reports should not cause public concern with regard to animals. "The problem," he explains, "is the tests [mentioned in the AP article] were done on mice, which actually have no relation to animals such as pets, or to humans. Lab mice can get a tumor from a grain of sand."

However, Meija says, even the studies themselves may have been misconstrued by Lewan. One example was a French study, cited in the article, which found that about 4.1 percent of the 1,260 implanted mice developed tumors. Although the study did not state any of the tumors were cancerous, the news story implied they were malignant. Mejia states that such an implication "was distorting and really sad to hear."

"I just want to have the truth being published," Mejia says. And from his standpoint, the truth is that the studies fail to prove any connection between tumors in animals and RFID microchip implants.

Veterinary pathologist Lawrence McGill, with the Animal Reference Pathology Laboratory in Salt Lake City, agrees. As a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), McGill says the association continues to endorse the use of RFID chips for tracking pets and livestock. McGill participated in a 2003 epidemiological study on cats for the AVMA's Vaccine Associated Sarcoma Task Force, which included implanted RFID chips.

The task force, McGill says, found no increase in the number of sarcomas due to the implanted RFID tags themselves, though there is a connection between injections and sarcomas in cats. He adds that dogs have almost no incidence of sarcomas at all, based on his own experience and other anecdotal evidence. "Many of us who were involved in the study," he states, "would say the microchips aren't going to cause sarcomas."

McGill predicts the negative press related to the previous studies is not likely to concern veterinarians—the most likely parties to insert the chips in pets and livestock—because the AVMA endorses the use of RFID microchips. He adds that if additional studies are performed to determine if implanted RFID tags can cause sarcomas, they are not likely to be conclusive. "If chips cause sarcomas in pets," he says, "it's going to be so rare the results will be insignificant."

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