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The Partial Observer by Maureen Dill

Smart Meters Coming Soon, But Are They Safe?

Most homeowners are familiar with the analog meters provided by utility companies, read monthly or bi-monthly by an employee of the company. Smart meters, on the other hand, are two-way communication devices that use technology—radiofrequency waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation energy—to transmit energy consumption data to a central computer at the utility company. According to NYSEG, smart meters will roll out here in our county sometime in 2025.

Global penetration of smart meters has reached an estimated 14 percent. Utility companies—including NYSEG—will undoubtedly state there is no health risk. However, today’s reports from credible sources are troubling, if not conflicting. Smart meters appear to be a way for utility companies to eliminate jobs while giving the utility provider a minute-by-minute picture of how their products are used. They’re not being installed for consumers’ convenience and may, in some cases, have negative health consequences.

At their website, NYSEG (owned by AVANGRID, a subsidiary of Iberdrola in Spain) presents disinformation, and their mention of “cybersecurity” threats is deliberately misleading as well—not to mention alarming. No one anywhere is immune to data threats or data theft, including our government. NYSEG’s reference to “better control” of energy usage is also deliberately misleading. Despite NYSEG’s claims of approvals, plans are currently underway for U.S. health agencies to conduct studies of the health hazards of smart meters. NYSEG has touted smart meter benefits, such as an “online manager,” and “low-level RF signals,” (quoting the World Health Organization and American Cancer Society as having said that “small amounts of RF signals do not pose public health risks” and that smart meters meet “industry standards” and are in use all over the country). What are the “industry standards?” If there are no health hazards, why then are there “recommended barriers” and “recommended distances” from smart meters? As another example of electromagnetic sensitivity relative to solar installation “inverters,” why is it recommended that these inverters be installed on outbuildings rather than on one’s house, unless “recommended barriers” are installed?

According to an Iberdrola website in Spain, groups in that country have expressed their concerns regarding the cost, health and fire risks, security, and privacy effects of smart meters, and the remote controllable “kill switch” that is included in them. People living near smart meters in Spain have been reported to have “suffered headaches, body aches, and flu-like symptoms” from the electric and magnetic fields that are emitted from smart meters. According to the same Iberdrola site, some meter installers in the U.S. have even been prevented at gun point from replacing analog meters with smart meters.

Strength of EMF waves shown by NYSEG for meter vs. microwave, Wi-Fi booster and cellphone are misleading. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics considers children to be more vulnerable to radio frequency radiation, not to mention that the RFR’s also pose risks to pollinators and wildlife.

Smart meter RF waves move through space at the speed of light, using a method of communication similar to a cellphone, pager, satellite, radio, transmission power line, Wi-Fi or Internet, to measure and transmit energy consumption data. They emit electromagnetic radiation in the form of radio frequency radiation. According to the WHO, “tissue heating” is the principal mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency energy and the human body.

Thus far, Austria is the only country with a written plan for guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems. And contrary to claims by utility providers, a standard smart meter can average 1,900 transmissions in a 24-hour period. The U.S. safety limit for RF radiation is 1,000 microwatts per meter squared. However, it is not uncommon for some smart meters to produce up to 60 times this amount, which means the radiation from smart meters is equivalent to the output of an estimated 160 wireless devices such as cellphones.

What are the FCC standards? Twenty-year-old FCC limits based on a 30-year-old study are not protective of human health and are hundreds of thousands of times too high to protect humans and wildlife from biological effects.

Further, it’s unacceptable that NYSEG intends to charge its consumers who “opt out” of having smart meters installed on their houses, reportedly at $13.49 each month. For those who are unable to opt out, it is suggested that a “smart meter guard” be installed, a cover placed over the smart meter that will block 90 to 95 percent of the RF radiation. (Incidentally, there are already monthly charges at present in place in NYSEG’s invoices for the cost of their meters, meter-reader employees and billing expenses.)

What are the fire hazards—in particular, for houses with older wiring? It’s reported that many communities oppose smart meters because of fires and other hazards. Some meters have reportedly exploded and caused fires, while some malfunction and allow surges and overvoltage to flow into buildings which can burn wiring.

Credible news sources report that a number of states have banned or are planning to ban so-called “smart meters” because of the related health hazards of EMFs and EMRs. Some states have enacted “smart grid” legislation. In California there are lawmakers, counties and cities that have called for moratoria, the right for consumers to opt out, and the banning of smart meters, with others declaring EMRs to be a health hazard and demanding more research on health and safety impacts. Cities in the state of Maine and in British Columbia, Canada have passed resolutions calling for moratoria on smart meters. See the National Conference of State Legislatures webpage for a map of the U.S. showing various policies on utility meters:

Health experts have urged states to adopt a free opt-out for Duke Energy customers: Florida Public Service Commission, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Kentucky Public Service Commission, North Carolina Utilities Commission, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and South Carolina, citing peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of radiofrequency radiation. People are suing for the right to remove smart meters and are winning. Twenty-four states now have opt-outs for smart meters, including Iowa. New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Los Angeles, California, and New York Central Hudson have no fee. North Carolina has no fee if opt-out is for health reasons. There are records of WHO reports and expert studies in Michigan, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Iowa, and elsewhere, with expert testimony on the hazards of smart meters.

In order to test frequencies in homes where smart meters are already in place, it is recommended that homeowners invest in one of the relatively inexpensive EMF readers available online. It is further recommended that local, state and federal representatives be made aware of the smart meter dangers and the consumers of electricity and gas who do not want smart meters installed. It is primarily government agencies and profit-seeking corporations, not consumers, which will determine if smart meters are installed.

Maureen Dill is a retired social worker and former disaster preparedness and response planner, having served as human services and emergency services director for two international nonprofit charitable organizations.


1 Comment

  1. Great job on this article! Of course the utility company will say that negative health effects are not an issue. But they’re goal is not your families well-being, but rather their profits. Be Smart and opt out of installing a smart meter!

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