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Media Reactions: RFID Kills but Cell Phones Don't?

Contributed by Joanne C. Kelleher

Remko van der Togt, from Vrije University, in Amsterdam, led a study whose objective was to assess and classify incidents of electromagnetic interference (EMI) by RFID on critical care equipment. The results, which were published in the Journal of American Medical Association on June 25th, concluded that in a controlled nonclinical setting, RFID induced potentially hazardous incidents in medical devices. Implementation of RFID in the critical care environment should require on-site EMI tests and updates of international standards.

Remko van der Togt; Erik Jan van Lieshout; Reinout Hensbroek; E. Beinat; J. M. Binnekade; P. J. M. Bakker. Electromagnetic Interference From Radio Frequency Identification Inducing Potentially Hazardous Incidents in Critical Care Medical Equipment. JAMA, 2008;299(24):2884-2890

The media has responded to this study with headlines like:
‘Smart’ cards can interfere with medical equipment, study shows
  RFID may cause interference with medical equipment 
 Radio-Wave Devices May Play Havoc With Medical Equipment
  Wireless Chips: a Threat to Hospital Patients?
  Wireless chips may endanger patients in hospital
  How RFID Can Kill You
  RFID could kill you
Wow, what a change from standards should be updated and tests of EMI should be performed to you will die from RFID. And these are mainstream publications or journalists, not blogs by conspiracy theorists or RFID haters.

When researchers at the Mayo Clinic, University of Amsterdam, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and other organizations identified problems of electromagnetic interference by cell phones on hospital equipment, the headlines weren’t nearly as dire. The focus of many of the headlines was about the need to turn the phones off when in hospitals, not that the cell phones could kill you.

Cell phones can also be used to track your location, but RFID gets all of the bad press about that topic too. Is this because cell phones have become ubiquitous but the public and the media don’t understand the technology behind RFID? Headlines like this do not help.

I see the requirement to do on-site EMI tests as another RFID security issue that needs to be addressed during the RFID implementation process.

1 Comment

  1. Jessica on April 24, 2011 at 1:47 am


    My dog has a microchip (standard pet chip which is ISO RFID chip operating at 125khz inserted just under the skin between the shoulder blades) and I have fears we are being watched / recorded / studied due to this – and alot of the research Ive done on the subject has lead me to find lots of stories of tracking / tracing / research and other breaches of privacy due to these pet chips. I no longer agree with the idea of my dog having this “chip” active inside him.

    I have enquired at my vet about removal, which is not possible and even if I found someone who would do it, due to his extremely small size, the anaesthetic needed to operate under is more likely to kill him, and he has a high risk of infection on the area – I will not put his life at risk – surgery is not an option. Is there anyway I can deactivate / destroy / disable the RFID chip, without injuring my dog?


    Thankyou so much for taking the time to read this,

    Jessie x