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Are There Any Risk Factors Associated With RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 02.19.2014

If so, how can a user avoid them?

—Name withheld


The biggest risk you'll face is that you might become a lot more efficient and sales will rise, but you won't have the requisite managerial skills to manage the rapid growth. Sorry, a little RFID humor there—I assume you mean health risks.

A study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and published in the HeartRhythm Journal in 2010, noted that interrogators of passive RFID tags could cause some electromagnetic interference to implantable pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), but that the devices posed no urgent health risks. The study's authors believed that the "continued proliferation of RFID without taking implantable pacemaker and ICD EMC into consideration could potentially cause clinically significant events for patients" (see Study Finds RFID Readers May Affect Pacemakers, But Pose No Urgent Risk).

A few years ago, the University of Texas at Arlington's Radio Frequency Innovation and Technology Center, published a paper titled "Specific Absorption Rates in the Human Head and Shoulder for Passive UHF RFID Systems at 915 MHz." The research revealed that in an ideal absorption environment, an RFID reader located 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) from a person's head presents a specific absorption rate above 1.6 W/kg for both the spatial-peak of 1 g and 10 g cube of tissue—the maximum value allowed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (see Can RFID Be Harmful to the Human Body?).

Generally speaking, if you keep people at least 3 meters (9.8 feet) away from readers and do not expose them to continual emissions from the devices, there should be no problem. Those with pacemakers would do well to stay further away.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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