Smart Meters are electric and gas meter reading devices being installed all over
the US as a first step in creating a national smart grid. Designed to enhance
energy efficiency and make widespread adoption of renewable energy easier,
Smart Meters are radio transmitters that communicate data from homes and
businesses to the gas and electric company through a matrix of radio signals.
They allow people to measure and monitor their own energy consumption in order
to reduce it.
Large groups of citizens are complaining that their Smart Meters are
over-billing them. Public meetings are being held over the country to discuss
this, and many cities have come out in favor of a smart Meter moratorium until
the issue is resolved. But now there are growing numbers of activists who are
protesting against Smart Meters for another reason. They contend that the radio
frequency (RF) Smart Meters emit is harmful to human health. People living with
the meters are claiming mild to severe symptoms that are all over the board:
Concentration and memory problems, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations,
headaches, sleep disruptions, nausea, anxiety and behavioral problems in
People are especially concerned about certain groups who are vulnerable to Smart
Meter health risks, such as children (who absorb radiation at a greater rate
than adults), electrosensitive people, people with pacemakers, and chronically
ill people whose immune systems are compromised.
As reported by Caitlin Esch EastBayExpress (7/10) PG&E's new meters have been vilified for allegedly overbilling customers. Now
there's evidence that they may bad for your health, as well.
California electric provider, PG&E has been unable to give consistent, believable answers about either how
frequently Smart Meter radiation is emitted&emdash;or what the peak power is of the radiation signal at certain distances.
Some representative say the meters transmit RF six times a day; others, once an
hour. Independent RF specialists have measured them every 45 seconds, or even
twice in a minute.
As for peak power of Smart Meter radiation signals, there is even more
confusion. PG&E maintains that the RF transmissions are well within FCC standards, that they
transmit data for only a fraction of a second and are far weaker than other
everyday radio frequency emitters, such as cell phones, cell towers and Wi-Fi.
Putting aside for a moment the debate over the safety of even these "everyday"
RF emitters, there's reason to doubt these assurances from PG&E that Smart Meters are safer than these other devices. Independent
environmental EMF consultants have found that peak pulses are far greater in
intensity than the "average pulse" that many utility companies claim&emdash;sometimes up to 1000 times more powerful than a cell phone.(1) Because of
the skewed and inaccurate way in which they figure the number of pulses per
minutes, their figures of an "average" pulse is greatly reduced.
Assurances of utility companies are reminiscent of promises that have been made
over the years by plastics and chemical manufacturers who initially claimed
that what they were producing was safe. But aside from any of this, what's
important to understand is that the FCC safety standards are based only on
thermal effects of radiation, meaning: How high can radiation go before the
body tissues start cooking? Research has shown that the thermal effects of
microwave radiation are not the only effects to be worried about. There are
also non-thermal effects of RF that are very concerning.
One of the most informative reports written on the subject is the Bioinitiative
Report of 2007. Authored by 15 scientists, researchers and health policy
professionals, this report clearly documents evidence that numerous health
problems are created by exposure to RF, including DNA breakage and cancer&emdash;and this, at levels far below the FCC standards. The report is recognized
by the European Parliament, the European Environment Agency, and the Breast
Cancer Fund, among others.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Toxicology Program have
also studied the effects RF on human health. Their updated results are that,
among other things, RF can significantly increase the risk of a glioma, a
deadly brain tumor.
With a spectrum analyzer pointed skyward, Stephen Scott, a patient,
self-described radio-frequency geek, tested for electromagnetic fields in the
basement of an apartment building in downtown Oakland. He drew a wand-like
instrument and directed it toward a small circular box affixed to a wall. He
said he was measuring the strength of the radio frequency signals he caught on
the spectrum analyzer. He directed the wand toward the appliance in question
and laughed in quiet disbelief. "I just got a big spike," he said. The wand's
meter measures signals ranging in intensity from a weak green to a strong red
with yellow and orange levels in between. For a split second, the lights shot
into the red. Scott is a remediation specialist for EMF Services, a company
that surveys living and work environments for potentially harmful radiation. He
was testing an electric Smart Meter recently installed by PG&E.
For its part, PG&E maintains that Smart Meters are safe, and emit radio frequencies that are well
within Federal Communications Commission standards. The utility says electric
Smart Meters transmit data for only a fraction of a second every four hours and
are far weaker than other everyday radio-frequency emitters like cellphones,
cell towers, and wireless Internet. But as PG&E races to outfit every home and business in the Bay Area with a Smart Meter,
there's some reason to doubt the utility's assurances. Independent
environmental and electromagnetic-fields consultants, for example, have found
that Smart Meters pulse far more often that PG&E claims. In addition, there's evidence to suggest that the peak pulses are far
greater in intensity than the "average pulse" PG&E owns up to, thereby raising questions about safety, particularly in children,
whose bodies absorb radiation at a far greater rate than adults. In dense urban
areas, residents also have raised concerns about banks, or clusters of upwards
of thirty meters on some apartment buildings. However, the precise strength of
the powerful "peak pulses" emitted by Smart Meters remains unclear. PG&E refuses to disclose that information, stating only that its calculations are
in accordance with FCC specifications.
But how the utility calculates the pulses has become an issue of debate. PG&E's calculations are time-averaged, or stretched out over all the time the
meter's not pulsing, making the average significantly lower than the peak. In
addition, independent testers can accurately measure how many times a meter
pulses, but without military-grade &emdash; and cost-prohibitive &emdash; equipment, it's difficult to measure the intensity of the strongest
bursts. Furthermore, because Smart Meters pulse and most other radio-frequency
emitters remain low and constant like a cellphone, it's still unclear how they
might affect human health. Although the World Health Organization maintains
there are no consistent studies showing adverse health affects from
radio-frequency exposure, there is plenty of research that suggest long-term
exposure is linked to cancer and other diseases. In short, PG&E's rapid deployment of Smart Meters appears to be something of a leap of faith,
a "trust us" moment &emdash; not unlike the promises made over the years by plastics manufacturers
who claimed the chemicals they used were safe, too.
So are Smart Meters bad for your health? It's a difficult question to answer.
Though similar in wattage and frequency to cellphones, Smart Meters
infrequently pulse at a greater intensity, while cellphones emit lower levels
of constant radiation. Still, both devices emit radio frequencies, and
recently, cellphones and cell towers have come under intense criticism as
information has surfaced suggesting that they may cause cancer.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a bill in June, 2010 that was
signed into law by Mayor Gavin Newsom, requiring cellphone retailers to post
radiation levels for each type of phone they sell. Democratic Congressman
Dennis Kucinich of Ohio announced he would introduce a bill to create a
national research program that would look at the safety of electromagnetic
fields, particularly in cellphones. The World Health Organization has also said
it would conduct a formal study of the effects of radio frequencies on human
health by 2010, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer will review
the carcinogenic potential of cellphones by next year.
But so far, the science on cellphones has been somewhat contradictory. Recent
studies from Sweden have found that placing a cellphone to your head everyday
for ten years or more increases your chance of developing a brain tumor by 280
percent in adults and 420 percent in teenagers. However, the overall conclusion
of the separate, and costly, 13-country Interphone study found no connection
between cellphone use and brain tumors. Some scientists have criticized this
ongoing study as flawed because some of its sub-studies concluded that
cellphones actually prevent brain tumors. Although, Henry Lai, a professor in
the bioengineering department at the University of Washington found that
studies not funded by the industry were far more likely to find that cellphones
cause cancer. Industry-funded studies found electromagnetic fields affect our
health just 28 percent of the time, while non-industry-funded studies found
human health is affected 67 percent of the time. And most people don't realize
that cellphone manufacturers acknowledge a link between phone use and human
health. To meet FCC standards, the fine print in most cellphone manuals state
that users are not supposed to put the devices up to their bodies. A Motorola
V195 GMS, for example, is supposed to be held an inch away from the head while
Lloyd Morgan says he almost died from exposure to electromagnetic fields. In
1995, Morgan was having lunch with a friend when he suffered a grand mal
seizure that literally knocked him off his feet. Turns out, Morgan had a tumor
the size of his fist growing inside his head. "My neurosurgeon said to me,
perhaps EMFs [electromagnetic fields] caused your tumor &emdash; and that was fifteen years ago," Morgan said. He's since engaged in a
battle against the cellphone industry, attempting to save others from untimely
deaths by brain tumor. As an electrical engineer, Morgan was certainly exposed
to electromagnetic fields. He was also a ham radio operator in high school, had
a full dental X-ray when he was young, and slept next to a clock radio for
several decades &emdash; all possible contributors, he believes, to his tumor. Morgan does not
use a cellphone and he does not have WiFi in his North Berkeley home. But he
does have Smart Meters.
Though Morgan doesn't appear as concerned about the gas and electric Smart
Meters affixed to the wall outside his living room, he took time during a
recent interview to point out a bank of about a dozen Smart Meters just a few
yards away on the wall of the apartment building next door. And a dozen more
across the street. Morgan likens exposure to electromagnetic fields to smoking:
If constant cellphone exposure is like sucking down a cigarette, Smart Meters
are analogous to second-hand smoke. Cigarettes are generally believed to cause
lung cancer in about 10 percent of heavy smokers. If the same holds true for
heavy cellphone users, Morgan foresees an epidemic of disastrous proportions.
"I believe there will be a tsunami of brain tumors that will show up in ten to
fifteen years," he said. If 10 percent of cellphone users worldwide developed a
brain tumor, that could mean tens of millions of people.
So how do Smart Meters compare to cellphones? Cellphones, cell towers, and other
electronic devices emit a near-constant stream of radio frequencies that can
vary in strength, while Smart Meters emit short, fraction-of-a-second-long
bursts called "pulses." In addition, most health studies on electromagnetic
fields have focused on cellphones and other sources that cause constant,
low-level exposure &emdash; but not on electronic devices that pulse. Moreover, there's disagreement
about how strong the Smart Meter pulses are, and how often they pulse in the
first place. It's nearly impossible for consumers to accurately measure for
themselves the magnitude of Smart Meter pulses, because high-end testing
equipment is prohibitively expensive.
There are no warning signs about health risks that come with a Smart Meter.
Central Maine Power Company has begun installing Smart Meters in that state.
Under their program, you can opt out but it will become costly with
installation fees and added monthly charges. If you have been suffering from
any unexplained ailments since the installation of your Smart Meter, you might
want to look into finding protection against the RF emitted by the meter.
Personal Protection Against Smart Meters Health Risks
Question: I am a resident of the state of Maine. Central Maine Power Company will be
installing wireless Smart Meters to take electricity readings electronically.
Will the Circuit Breaker diode protect from this type of radiation? Many are
concerned and I expect, will want to know how to protect themselves and their
Answer: Yes, we have been getting alot of calls about the Smart Meters. The Circuit Breaker Diode will protect you from the Smart Meters as well as all electrical appliances in
your home. You do not need to adhere it to the Circuit Breaker, you can just
prop it up inside the box. If you only want protection from the Smart Meter
itself, the Versatile Diode can be put directly on the meter. If it is outside, place it in an area where
it will be the most protected from rain.