What Are the Risks of DNA Fingerprinting?

DNA image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com

Discovered in 1984, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) fingerprinting finds and evaluates specific genetic information from a person's cells. A DNA fingerprint can be taken from almost any type of cell, but samples are most commonly taken from blood, hair, skin and semen.

Like a regular fingerprint, a DNA fingerprint is unlikely to be identical to anyone else's, and today, DNA fingerprinting is used in everything from criminal investigations to paternity tests. But there are some risks to DNA fingerprinting.

Medical Concerns

In many cases, blood is given voluntarily for a DNA fingerprint to be obtained, such as in paternity tests. According to Health.com, few risks are involved with getting your blood drawn for a DNA fingerprint. Like having blood drawn for anything else, a bruise may form at the site of the initial puncture, or the blood vessel may become slightly inflamed. In rare cases, continued bleeding after a blood sample is taken may be a problem for individuals with bleeding disorders.

Risks of a Mismatch

According to MSNBC.com, many countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada, have already created DNA fingerprint databases. The United Kingdom's Daily Mail reported in November of 2007 that Britain's criminal database contained 4.5 million DNA samples. However, DNA fingerprinting is not infallible. Many tests for which DNA fingerprinting is used test a series of only five to ten genetic markers. Except for in the case of identical twins, no two people have exactly the same full DNA fingerprint. However, in cases of large databases, it becomes more possible that multiple people may have the same five or ten genetic markers.

Privacy Risks

In January of 2006, Congress expanded DNA sampling in the United States. The new forensic expansion allows federal investigators, including the Justice Department, to take a DNA sample from anyone under criminal arrest and from immigrants detained by authorities. However, whether you're eventually convicted or not, your DNA sample and fingerprint remain in the database, according to the New York Times.