Implantable VeriChip, about the size of a grain of rice
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – The safety of implantable tracking chips in human beings is suddenly in focus with the revelation the devices could cause cancer, and that studies showing links to the disease were kept under wraps.
According to the Associated Press, despite the chips’ approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, neither their maker nor federal regulators publicly mentioned a series of studies dating to the mid-1990s that found chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.
“The transponders were the cause of the tumors,” Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, told AP as he explained the findings of a 1996 study he led at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.
The wire service says leading cancer specialists reviewed the research, 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.”
The company says some 2,000 have been implanted in humans worldwide, and VeriChip sees a target market of 45 million Americans looking to be medically monitored.
“We stand by our implantable products which have been approved by the FDA and/or other U.S. regulatory authorities,” Scott Silverman, VeriChip Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, said in a written response to AP questions.
The company was “not aware of any studies that have resulted in malignant tumors in laboratory rats, mice and certainly not dogs or cats,” but he added millions of domestic pets have been implanted with microchips, without reports of significant problems.
“In fact, for more than 15 years we have used our encapsulated glass transponders with FDA approved anti-migration caps and received no complaints regarding malignant tumors caused by our product.”
While the FDA is also standing by its approval of the technology, federal officials declined repeated AP requests to specify what studies it reviewed before giving the green light.
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.
Just two weeks after the chip’s approval took effect on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post. Within five months, he became a board member of VeriChip Corp. and Applied Digital Solutions, getting 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, nor did he play any role in FDA’s approval process of the RFID tag, reports AP.
“I didn’t even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said.
As WND previously reported, Thompson pledged that he himself would get chipped with the device, but to date has never gone through with the procedure.
The studies between 1996 and 2006 revealed lab mice that had the chips implanted in them developed malignant tumors, most of which encased the implants. The AP reports:
- 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.
“There’s no way in the world, having read this information, that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members,” Dr. Robert Benezra, head of the Cancer Biology Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told AP.
“I mean, these are bad diseases. They are life-threatening. And given the preliminary animal data, it looks to me that there’s definitely cause for concern.”
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