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DNA test kits are popular — but are they safe?

MiamiHerald / Test kits to check one’s DNA heritage have never been cheaper. Prices have skidded to less than $50, and in at least one instance, thousands of people were offered free tests.

It’s a commercial brawl, but one that stretches far beyond the marketplace to raise sensitive issues of privacy and personal identity. And it is likely to intensify. Some 10 to 15 million Americans have already taken the DNA tests, and the number is rising quickly.

For many Americans, the tests are fodder for cocktail conversation, revealing exotic aspects of their heritage, perhaps native American blood. For others, results can help track lost relatives or build a family tree.

As the DNA tests proliferate, though, some experts fret that consumers may be getting a sour bargain. Indeed, they say DNA data may fall in the wrong hands, betraying consumers and even making them the target of creepy advertising by companies aware of their genetic predispositions, like overeating or gambling.

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