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Microchips may cause human cancer, critics say, citing animal tests

first_imgTo date, about 2,000 radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips have been implanted in humans worldwide, according to VeriChip Corp. The company, which sees a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips, insists the devices are safe. “We stand by our implantable products which have been approved by the FDA and/or other U.S. regulatory authorities,” said Scott Silverman, chairman and chief executive officer of the Delray Beach, Fla., company. Management was “not aware of any studies that have resulted in malignant tumors” in laboratory animals, but he added that millions of pets have been implanted with microchips without reports of significant problems. The FDA also stands by its approval of the technology, but declined repeated AP requests to specify what studies it reviewed before approving the implants. The agency is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, which, at the time of VeriChip’s approval, was headed by Tommy Thompson. Two weeks after the device’s approval took effect on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post, and by July was a board member of VeriChip Corp. and its parent company, Applied Digital Solutions. He was compensated in cash and stock options. Thompson, until recently a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, says he had no personal relationship with the company as the VeriChip was being evaluated, and played no role in FDA’s approval. Also making no mention of the findings on animal tumors was a June report by the ethics committee of the American Medical Association, which touted the benefits of implantable RFID devices. Had committee members reviewed, or even been aware of, the literature on cancer in chipped animals? No, said Dr. Steven Stack, an AMA board member. Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinarian oncologist at Ohio State University, noted it’s easier to cause cancer in mice than people. “So it may be that what you’re seeing in mice represents an exaggerated phenomenon of what may occur in people.” Tens of thousands of dogs have been chipped, she said, and veterinary pathologists haven’t reported outbreaks of related sarcomas. (Published reports detailing malignant tumors in two chipped dogs turned up in AP’s four-month examination of research on chips and health. In one dog, the researchers said cancer appeared linked to the presence of the embedded chip; in the other, the cancer’s cause was uncertain.) Nonetheless, London saw a need for a 20-year study of chipped canines.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients’ medical records almost instantly. The FDA found “reasonable assurance” the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005’s top “innovative technologies.” But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: 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 the findings of a 1996 study he led. 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. Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people. last_img read more

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