Utilities around the country are installing smart meters as fast as they possibly can. There are well over sixty million of them out there already and more are being put in every year—and usually, you won’t even know that yours has been switched out. But you should know. Not only are you going to be saying farewell to your meter reader guy, you’ll also probably be paying more for power every month—some people say it’s a LOT more, because the utility can closely monitor your usage many times during the day, and charge you accordingly. But here at SaferTech, we’re also concerned about the potential health and privacy effects of technology. Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) levels are continual and high.
What is a smart meter?
It’s a connected smart device. If you’ve been reading about The Internet of Things, this is one of those things. It’s a small computer with enough power to monitor and control your home’s power and then send messages back to the utility.
Our friendly utility company describes their smart meter program this way . . .
From Southern California Edison (a California electric company)
“The SmartConnect digital meters and two-way communications system enable customers to better understand their energy consumption and more effectively manage their electricity use, thus helping them save energy and better manage their overall energy bill. SmartConnect meters are also equipped to support a home area network (HAN) on the customer’s premises. The HAN enables the meter to provide information into the home and to communicate with HAN-enabled devices (such as smart thermostats and in-home displays).”
Isn’t that sweet? They want you to understand your energy consumption!
How does a smart meter work?
Smart meters can use a variety of Radio Frequency (RF) systems, the most popular being what they call a mesh network—one meter sends information to the next, to the next, etc., and then is collected in a centralized hub. That’s a lot of wireless energy going on.
But, you should know . . .
The problem we see is that the meters use a cellular technology that is basically attached to your house. And some reports indicate that these radios are far more powerful than what the FCC typically allows. So as your meter chats with the mothership on and off, all day and night long, some pretty big-time EMF’s are spitting out too. Depending on where your meter is located (e.g. close to bedrooms), you and your kids could be unhealthfully near a device that is shooting intermittent strong bursts of EMF radiation at you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More on the potential health effects a bit later.
What if I live in an apartment?
Well, if you’re unlucky enough to live near that big bank of meters that many complexes have, you’re being blasted by all of them together, all of the time! Yikes!!
And then, there’s the issue of privacy
If the utility knows in granular detail about your energy usage, it would be very easy for them, or some other actor, to figure out when you’re home and when you’re not. Imagine a car quietly driving down your street that can pick up the Smart Meter transmissions and use that to decide which homes to break into!
How powerful is the radiation?
The radiation energy field emitted from smart meters is measured in MicroWatts Per Centimeter Squared (μW/cm2) the typical unit used in America. Keep in mind that smart meter transmissions are not constant, and the readings can fluctuate. In our tests, we used our specially calibrated EMF Tester from TES.
Also note that EMF testers (EMF meters) can ONLY check the electromagnetic field intensity; this doesn’t tell us if or how the field is affecting us biologically. If you’d like to know more about the topic of polarization, check out the very in depth and enlightening article links below.
We found that for our smart meter, the highest level we found was 56.71 μ W/cm2.
Whoa—this energy is sent 288 times a day!
This smart meter is either sending or receiving information about every 5 minutes and operates on two bands: the 900 megahertz (MHz) band, slightly above those used by some of the cellular telephone carriers, and 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) band, the same range where WiFi operates.
Compare that to our test for the highest level on our home WiFi router, which was 25.02 μW/cm2. This is a super HIGH number by the way. Check out what experts say are SAFE LEVELS of EMF HERE
Q: Aren’t smart meters as safe as cell phones and WiFi routers?
…Ah, that’s a good question.
Smart meters use radio frequency microwave radiation similar to WiFi and cell phones. At Safertech, we think exposure to this type of RF energy should be managed and limited. I’ve got a quick WiFi Video Demo and a switch to turn it off quick and easy while keeping a healthy distance. The safety of these devices is really questionable. In 2011, the World Health Organization placed this frequency range in the “possible human carcinogen” category.
We believe there is a cumulative effect of exposure so be aware, unlike your cell phone or WIFI router, you are not able to turn off a smart meter, or your neighbors meter, or the related neighborhood utility wireless antennas that communicate in the smart network.
Moreover, the RF radiation from some wireless smart meters is a concern because the radiation is so persistent and powerful. California court documents indicate that each of these meters issues RF radiation pulses averaging about 10,000 times per day, and up to a maximum of 190,000 times per day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! That power level places wireless smart meters among the most powerful RF emitters likely to be present in a residential home.
Turns out, Some People Found Out Smart Meters Don’t Make Them Feel So Good
We came across this research report by Ronald Powell, Ph.D. I reached out to Mr. Powell and he was kind enough to share his up to date research, which I encourage you to read here. Dr. Powell is a retired career U. S. Government scientist. He holds a Ph.D in Applied Physics from Harvard. During his Government career, he worked for the President, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
When it comes to smart meters he’s an incredible wealth of information. Check out the link in the research below.
Now, many do not have any noticeable symptoms when exposed to RF radiation from wireless smart meters. The full health disclosure that everyone should be aware of is that there is growing evidence about the biological effects of being exposed to RF radiation. It makes sense that organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics have expressed concern regarding radiation standards relating to wireless devices. Many in the medical field believe that pregnant women and their unborn children, very young children, teenagers, men of a reproductive age, seniors, and anyone with a chronic health condition are those who are especially high risk of harm from exposure.
Electric fields can affect the electrical communication in your body, such as your brainwaves, or the ability of your neurons to fire and communicate. It can also impede intercell communication anywhere in your body. Health problems that can manifest as a result to this type of exposure include…
- Neurological and behavioral changes
- Altered cell growth
- Cell mutations
- Chronic fatigue
Hey, aren’t we protected by the FCC?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for the regulations that set the Maximum Permitted Exposure (MPE) limits for RF radiation. Unfortunately, the current regulations are based primarily on outdated 1980s thinking, when only the heating effects of RF radiation on the body were considered. Since then, the biomedical research community has demonstrated, in hundreds of published studies, that there are an enormous number of biological effects of concern, entirely aside from heating, and the number of discovered effects continues to grow. So, the concern is that the current FCC regulations are out of date and are too permissive.
There has been legislation proposed in the US House of Representatives to address this issue (H.R. 6358). But even if that legislation becomes law, it will be years before more protective regulations are developed and issued. In the meantime, each of the states in the US is on its own to protect its residents.
How are states and communities handling the smart meter issue? Well, here’s this from the Golden State:
In California, which got Wireless Smart Meters early (2010), 57 towns, cities, counties, and other jurisdictions have opposed the mandatory installation of Wireless Smart Meters. Of these jurisdictions, 15 of them have banned the installation of Wireless Smart Meters altogether.
The Attorneys General of three states have opposed Wireless Smart Meters because they find that the costs outweigh any claimed financial benefits to the customers.
Here are some excerpts from the State of California Public Utilities Commission regarding Smart Grid Deployment of Smart Meters.
From State of California
Memo from Public Utilities Commission San Francisco
To the Commission March 2011,
For, Edward Randolph Director office of Governmental Affairs Sacramento,
Regarding Smart Grid Deployment of Smart Meters.
In January, the California Council of Science & Technology released a report
assessing the health impacts of RF exposure based on a review of published
health studies. It found that the FCC standard provides a significant factor of
safety against thermally induced health impacts of smart meters and that there
is no clear evidence that additional standards are needed. For nonthermal
effects, it found that “[g]iven the existing significant scientific
uncertainty,” no standards are needed at this time.
Item 37 (10166), Page 5
However, it suggested that additional research is needed to better understand
the potential health impacts of nonthermal effects.
By July 1, 2011, the utilities are expected to file their longterm smart grid
deployment plans in response to a CPUC order in the smart grid proceeding.
Much of that smart grid, and the associated benefits, is expected to rely on
wireless infrastructure extending beyond smart meters”
What can I do about my smart meter?
Common sense may dictate that you keep away from smart meters. Like WiFi, the energy is strongest at the source and then dissipates as you get further away. So, since we really can’t be absolutely sure how this energy affects our minds and our bodies, I think it’s a good idea to relocate furniture, especially beds and cribs, away from the smart meter if you’re worried about being exposed to non-ionizing radiation.
For me, smart meters seemed unnecessary so we got rid of ours.
You can try to opt out of having a smart meter, and use a older non-wireless meter (which gives off almost no energy).
I wrote an email to SDGE, my provider, and told them I wanted to opt out. First they sent a letter explaining the safety of smart meters. I replied that I still wanted mine removed because I’m EMF sensitive and I didn’t think the smart meter was a healthy choice for my family.
There was a one time charge to get the analog meter back, and a monthly meter reading service fee.
Check with your utility company. This may or may not be an option in your state.
What if I can’t opt out?
Check with anti-Smart Meter coalitions to see what your options are. I linked a few below for a head-start, but I honestly don’t know the impact they’ve had. In the meantime, keep your beds and main working/living areas at least 610 feet away from any smart meter. The amount of RF energy emitted drops significantly the further away you are from the source.
We all want our family and friends to be as safe as possible, right? I think if you take the “better safe than sorry position,” we will all be healthier and happier. Please share this video and article with someone you love.