October 19, 2004

Implantable RFID device "poses potential risks to health"

Electrical hazards, MRI incompatibility, adverse tissue reaction, and migration of the implanted transponder are just a few of the potential risks associated with the Verichip ID implant device, according to an October 12, 2004 letter issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) has obtained a copy of the letter and posted it on the group's website at

"For a device purported to help patients, the VeriChip has serious medical downsides," says Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN. "By omitting this information from their press material, the companies marketing the VeriChip have painted an inaccurately rosy picture of their product that could mislead consumers into believing the devices are completely safe."

Albrecht cites MRI incompatibility is perhaps the most serious issue. An MRI machine uses powerful magnetic fields coupled with pulsed radio frequency (RF) fields. According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants" that can cause "potentially severe patient burns." 

"Patients contemplating a VeriChip implant need to know that the FDA has raised MRI incompatibity as a potential risk," she said. "If it's a choice between a potentially life-saving diagnostic procedure or a VeriChip implant, I believe most patients would choose the MRI."

In addition to outlining a number of health risks, the FDA letter also cites the risk of "compromised information security" among its concerns. The VeriChip ID implant, about the size of a grain of rice, uses radio waves to transmit medical and financial account information to reader devices. There is a risk that these transmissions could be intercepted and duplicated by others or that the devices could be used to track an individual's movements and location.

"Once you're chipped, you can be identified by doorway portal readers without your knowledge," says Albrecht, referring to a VeriChip reader sold by value added resellers such as FindMe, LLC ( "That tracking potential, coupled with VeriChip's potential health risks make the VeriChip a very poor choice for medical patients seeking safety and security." 

Albrecht said her group will be contacting the FDA to get more specifics about the dangers outlined in its letter. She also plans to contact the Digital Angel Corporation, manufacturer of the VeriChip; VeriChip, the technology licensee; and VeriChip's parent company, Applied Digital.

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