Friday, September 14, 2007

Microchips Cause Cancer

Microchips are tiny radio-frequency computer chips (typically no larger than a grain of rice) that can be implanted into domestic animals, cars, and laptops. They are used for information storage – in dogs, for example, they contain the owner’s contact information and serve as a GPS tracking device in case the dog is lost.



In 2004, the FDA approved microchips for health-care use in human beings. They gave this approval to a company called VeriChip Corp.

In humans, these implantable chips act as high-tech electronic medical records. Imagine it: your entire medical history can be instantly accessed in a single computer scan because you have a data chip under your skin. Sounds convenient doesn’t it? In case of an emergency your medical provider would not be at a loss, even if you forget important details or can’t communicate at all..

…but do these microchips cause cancer?

Well, according to a report by The Associated Press, they just might.

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.

What? I thought these things were supposed to SAVE your life, not give you cancer! How did these devices get approved by the FDA if they cause tumors in mice? I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I could offer one reason for their approval:

The FDA 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 within five months he became a board member of VeriChip Corp. According to the AP article, he was compensated in cash and stock options.

Hmmm…

OK. Leaving conspiracy theories aside for the moment, it’s not like this is a public health menace or anything, right? I mean, do you know anyone with an implanted microchip? Well, you might be surprised, I sure was, to learn that….

To date, about 2,000 of the so-called radio frequency identification, or RFID, devices 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…

Yes, you’re right, 2,000 chips implanted in humans amounts to just 1 in every 150,000 people in the US. But what if it were 45,000,000? Now THAT’S a lot of microchips. And don’t forget that these devices have been implanted in tens of thousands of pet dogs and cats in the US to aid in their recovery should they get lost.

So what lesson can we learn from all of this?

Well, maybe VeriChip paid off Tommy Thompson to ensure FDA approval of their product and then further rewarded him by offering him a lucrative position as a board member. Maybe not. Figuring that out is what investigational reporters are for. What I think we can learn from this experience is the importance of ongoing research even after a product is approved by the FDA. The studies required by the FDA in order to demonstrate safety are usually very small, enrolling fewer than 100 patients, so that rare side effects may not be seen in these trials.

For example, if microchips cause tumors at a rate of 0.01% (1 in 10,000), and if they were tested in 100 people prior to approval, no tumors would have been expected to be seen in those studies. However, if 1 in 10,000 recipients get a tumor, and if 45,000,000 chips are implanted, that’s 4,500 tumors, which is not an insignificant number.

Post-market evaluations are a valuable mechanism for identifying these problems, as demonstrated by the Vioxx case that was so prominent several years ago. And because some of these side effects are rare, detecting them after the drug or device has been approved by the FDA does not imply fault on the part of the manufacturer or on the part of the FDA. It just means that it is hard to detect rare side effects.

The other lesson to be learned is on the value of animal testing. Thus far, no study has determined that tumors have been detected in humans, but given the small number of humans with chips implanted, this is not a surprise. However, having detected these tumors in animals alerts us to the possibility that something similar could happen in people. This will increase our vigilance in looking for this side effect, and that will ultimately benefit us all.

11 comments:

"Elizabliss" said...

Very interesting blog entry today! Got me to thinking!
I wonder what the chips made of. (Silcone? Latex?) and I wonder if the people walking around with these chips inside them have been informed of their mice counterparts. Wonder if Veterinarians have been informed. Also, wonder if knowing the composition of the chips would give a hint to science regarding how to block that carcinogenic effect.

outre said...

I find it odd that the microchip was approved human use when the current medical record system used by most institutions/offices pretty much renders it useless. I'd imagine EMRs would need to be further implemented before microchips will become useful in human healthcare settings.

bint alshamsa said...

When I first heard about RFID, I was pretty excited by the possibilities it posed. Recently, I've been downloading some of my medical information onto a flash drive that I carry with me. Even before this news--which I'm glad you shared because I certainly hadn't heard it before--I didn't think I'd be a good candidate for an RFID chip because God only knows what putting in implant in my body might do as far as lupus flare-ups.

I hope that they can eventually get to the bottom of this. I was on Vioxx when it was taken off the market. I'm really glad there was a post-market evaluation of it because, otherwise, I'd be on it to this day. It helped my arthritis like nothing I've taken before or since.

Doctor David said...

Elizabliss,
Thanks for your always insightful comments. It would be great to know if the sarcomas are caused by something in the chips or by the radiofrequency emissions, or just because of the manipulation of putting them in. That's the sort of random observation that ultimately teaches us all something.

Doctor David said...

Outre,
Welcome to the blog! You make an excellent point... until EMRs are standardized, it'll be hard to be sure that the hospital you find yourself at will be able to read your records.

Doctor David said...

Bint,
I'm glad you're still reading! Using a flash drive is a great idea. When my daughter was a baby, she spent 6 of her first 12 months of life in ICUs... so to simplify things, we used to carry a letter detailing her history as much as we possibly could (it was in the pre-flash drive era). You are wise to be cautious about an RFID chip... so many things can trigger a lupus flare, as you certainly know better than I.

Rich said...

There are no GPS tracking chips.

webhill said...

Just FYI - I've been in veterinary practice for 8 years. Never seen a chip-associated tumor. I know, I know - but honestly, this is all over the veterinary community and NO ONE in clinical practice that I can find has ever seen a tumor associated with a microchip in a dog or cat.

Also, the chips do not act as GPS tracking devices. They are only detectable by a handheld scanner which is waved over the implant's location. You have to already know where the dog is in order to scan it :) But once you have the dog in your hands, you can retrieve the information on the chip, and locate the missing owner that way! :)

webhill said...

Reading another of your comments I see you talking about chip "emissions." There are no chip emissions. The chip is passive. It does not broadcast.

Anonymous said...

They cause cancer, I am a victim without giving consent to anyone, I have a tumor growing on my forehead. Microchips were installed inside my ears, which is true, and inside my stomach. They are injectable.They are very dangerous. The transmission is my dangerous. Computers are used to log onto them.

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