To Spit or Not to Spit – Are Home DNA Tests a Good Idea?

The last year has been an interesting one here at Elite Storage in Lafayette CO, with many topics discussed, and who are we kidding, outright debated. The last one came after the Pentagon’s warning memo (December 20, 2019) to servicepeople about at-home DNA tests. I am one of the estimated 26 million people who have taken the leap and spit into the tube. A couple of my co-workers are very much against the practice of so doing, citing privacy concerns. 

So, being adopted, I have always been curious about my biological family, mainly for answers to health questions. On one hand, not gonna lie, being able to skip those tedious questions on health history questionnaires is kind of nice sometimes, I wonder if there is something that could be passed down that I might have inherited or passed down to my children. 

As a surprise, I received a DNA kit from one of the leading providers as a gift from my husband for a recent birthday. I sat the kit on my desk and waited three days before I did the deed – spat into a vial. Then came the tortuous waiting time for processing. All in all, it came back with a few small surprises, and a surname that matched the name of the Italian bakery that we visited weekly to purchase delicious loaves of bread for family meals. Come to find out, I was related to the owner by blood! A bit later in my digging, I saw photographs of people that looked like me. Somehow, a hole in my soul that I never knew was there was filled. So, on that note, my personal use of a kit has been very fulfilling to me and enriched my life. 

When I saw the stories about the Pentagon recommending against using these kits for all military personnel, I was confused. What could be wrong here? Of course, I remembered that a genetic genealogist had helped authorities find the Golden State Killer via GEDCOM, a database for raw DNA upload and analysis. So, what is the harm here? I mean, they caught a serial killer on a very cold case, so it can’t be all bad, right? 

After some research, I learned that many of the health reports are less reliable and return many false positives. So how does this affect military personnel? Since all active military service members are required by law to report health conditions, the addition of false positives on a commercial DNA kit’s heath reports would require military members to report any of the health conditions reportedly to which they are allegedly pre-disposed, as service members are not protected by law (known as GINA – The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) which protects civilians from discrimination based on their genetic code by health insurers or employers. At least one Navy Officer (https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/07/03/mail-ancestry-dna-kits-may-help-enemy-target-you-navys-top-officer-says.html) states that these tests can lead to specific targeting by the enemy at a future date. 

When it’s all said and done, I remain happy about my choice and discoveries, leaving the decision as a highly personal one. My co-worker did help me change some of my privacy settings though to prevent third-party or research being done on my DNA.  

Where do you stand? Come in and let us know at our Lafayette storage units – Elite Storage and let us know. 

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