RFID and cancer

Who needs privacy concerns if RFID causes cancer. The small implantable microchips that have generated concern from privacy experts and readers of revelations alike have now been associated with sarcoma formation in animals.

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. 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.

Published in veterinary and toxicology journals between 1996 and 2006, the studies found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed subcutaneous “sarcomas” — malignant tumors, most of them encasing the implants.

– A 1998 study in Ridgefield, Conn., of 177 mice reported cancer incidence to be slightly higher than 10 percent — a result the researchers described as “surprising.”

– A 2006 study in France detected tumors in 4.1 percent of 1,260 microchipped mice. This was one of six studies in which the scientists did not set out to find microchip-induced cancer but noticed the growths incidentally. They were testing compounds on behalf of chemical and pharmaceutical companies; but they ruled out the compounds as the tumors’ cause. Because researchers only noted the most obvious tumors, the French study said, “These incidences may therefore slightly underestimate the true occurrence” of cancer.

– In 1997, a study in Germany found cancers in 1 percent of 4,279 chipped mice. The tumors “are clearly due to the implanted microchips,” the authors wrote.

I’m pretty sure they’re referring to this study in mice in the first example. As usual the idiots writing science pieces can’t figure out how to link articles in the literature, or even mention useful information to help find the article like the journal name or an author. Worthless, I swear.

RFID didn’t need any more help being creepy. But two things should be considered before this becomes a major concern. First, is that enough of these have been implanted in dogs and cats that it strikes me as strange that this has not been observed yet in the pet population (I could only find one report and it’s not clear this is different from post-injection fibrosarcoma seen with vaccination in cats and dogs). Maybe now that we know to look such an effect might appear with systematic study. Second this result would be surprising since one would not predict the types of materials used in implantable chips would cause inflammation or be carcinogenic (unless someone screwed up), so it is unclear what the mechanism would be for carcinogenicity.

The things that are scary are that this has been observed inadvertently in multiple studies, the cancers are repeatedly sarcomas, and based on what the researchers have said, directly associated with the RFID implant. It’s enough that I would never agree to get an implant, not that I see any good reason to in the first place. Even a 0.01% risk of cancer would be crazy, since there isn’t enough of a benefit to the technology to justify the risk of tens of thousands of cancers a year if the technology were widely adopted. Here’s an instance in which the precautionary principle wins out. This technology should be frozen for human use until the cause of these results is better understood.

I should also point out that this is yet another example of crappy science reporting. Not because it wasn’t thorough, but because of the complete lack of transparency about the specific sources in the literature from which the reporting came. I think we should start writing emails to authors of articles that do this until the problem is corrected.