With smart meters now installed in more than 60 percent of US homes, and with more being rolled out by the minute, concerns about smart meter radiation are more relevant than ever. So just how safe are smart meters, and what might the impact be of having one installed at your home?
Smart Meters: How They Work
A smart meter is an electronic device that digitally records your energy usage. Smart meters use wireless communication (like cellular data networks) to transmit data directly to your utility provider. This means that meters don’t need to be manually read by a meter reader.
Utility companies claim that smart meters deliver benefits to consumers — like access to more data, better services, and cost and energy savings through data analysis.
And yet, reports from around the world repeatedly suggest that smart meters aren’t delivering on these promises, failing to make an impact on energy use in the US and beyond. In The Netherlands, for example, consumers are barely saving 1 percent on their energy bill, far under the projected amount.
Failing to deliver benefits is one thing — but smart meters also come with significant health and safety concerns.
Why Smart Meters Are A Health Risk
Because smart meters send data wirelessly back to the supplier, they emit strong bursts of radio frequency radiation. The official story told by many suppliers is that the meters only transmit data a few times per day. But both experts and consumer-run radiation tests have found that this is not the case. In fact, Senior Nuclear Policy Lecturer at UCSC, Daniel Hirsch, is reported to have found that “Smart Meters can emit intense pulses of radiation more than 14,000 times EACH DAY.”
The strength and frequency of these radiation bursts makes smart meters particularly dangerous to human health.
Many people have found the effects of smart meters to be both crippling and immediate. Within months of a 2010 smart meter roll-out in California, for example, over 2,000 health complaints were filed. Customers reported symptoms including severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, tachycardia, insomnia, and tinnitus.
Even more alarming is the lack of data on the long-term effects of smart meter radiation. With a large body of scientific evidence already attesting to the harmful effects of EMF on human cells, the true impact of constant, 24/7 smart meter radiation pulses will only become apparent in time.
Smart Meter Radiation: Stronger Than Cell Phones
Cell phones have long been linked to cancer. Both the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society officially recommend limiting cell phone use, due to cell phone radiation being “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on scientific studies.
Since smart meters emit the same type of radiation, this makes the findings by UCSC’s Daniel Hirsch doubly disquieting.
Hirsch estimates that a single smart meter can produce 160 times more cumulative whole body exposure to radiation than a mobile phone.
Hirsch’s calculations come from a detailed report in response to comments by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), who concluded that smart meters are safer than mobile phones. Hirsch points out that the CCST’s findings twisted the data by comparing different units in their calculations.
After Hirsch adjusted the calculations to correct the CCST’s errors he found that “… the cumulative whole body exposure from a Smart Meter at 3 feet appears to be approximately two orders of magnitude higher than that of a cell phone, rather than two orders of magnitude lower.” (Emphasis added.)
Hirsch’s corrected calculations pit smart meter radiation well above the levels emitted by cell phones, wifi routers, and microwave ovens.
No Choice For Consumers
As we’ve already noted, smart meters profit the energy company — not the consumer. And in many places consumers are not given a choice, forced by suppliers to upgrade to a smart meter even against their wishes.
In other areas consumers are given a choice to opt out, but at a cost. Maryland company Pepco, for example, currently charges a $75 one-off fee plus $14 per month to anyone who choses to opt out — and threatens to cut off electricity to anyone who refuses to pay up.
With the U.S. smart meter market projected to be worth more than USD $1 billion by 2024, it’s little surprise that electricity providers are putting profits above the health of their customers.
Protecting Yourself And Your Family From Smart Meter Radiation
Smart meters present a unique problem. Unlike cell phones and other devices — which you use by choice and can opt to switch off or distance yourself from at any time — smart meters are likely to be present whether you want them or not.
That makes protective measures more difficult.
What you can do is to be informed. Know the risks and know your options.
If smart meters are not installed in your area but are planned for roll-out, voice your concerns. Inform others of the potential health threats, and take action.
If you do have a smart meter installed, the best way to limit your exposure is by creating a protective barrier between you and the device using a product like SYB Tiles or the SYB Poster Frame Liner. These won’t interfere with the performance of the smart meter, but will deflect harmful radiation away from places where you, and your family, spend most of your time.
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