A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret

EU group links powerlines with childhood leukaemia

EU group links powerlines with childhood leukaemia

Children living close to extremely low-frequency powerlines are more likely to develop leukaemia,according to the independent EU scientific committee on health risks.

Children living close to extremely low-frequency powerlines are more likely to develop leukaemia, according to the independent EU scientific committee on health risks.

Children living close to extremely low-frequency powerlines are more likely to develop leukaemia, according to the independent EU scientific committee on health risks.

While they say they do not know why, and the link has not been comprehensively proven, the Irish-based Grid Link Action Group has warned Environment Minister Alan Kelly to take note.

A report produced by the committee states that research prior to 2000 showed a two-fold increase in the risk of developing childhood leukaemia when living, long term, close to certain pylons.

“The results of current scientific research show that there are no evident adverse health effects if exposure remains below the levels recommended by the EU legislation,” the report states.

It called for studies using recently developed mouse models of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and recommended they be carried out “as a high priority”.

The group said they should be carried out during gestation — when mice are pregnant — as it is during this period when the basis for the young developing leukaemia later on could happen.

The committee reviewed all scientific literature into the effects of electromagnetic fields on health. It found there was no link to an increased rate of Alzheimer’s or certain cancers.

However, Grid Link Action Group spokesman Kieran Connors said the findings did not mean pylons and electromagnetic fields were harmless.

“It must be pointed out that they found a link between tobacco smoking and cancer as far back as the 1950s, yet only produced the actual evidence of the causal link in the last few years,” he said.

He warned that the finding on leukaemia should serve as a warning to Mr Kelly, who has promised to produce planning guidelines on pylons.

Mr Connors said that, in the meantime, Mr Kelly should adopt the standards of countries such as Denmark, Germany, Sweden. and the Netherlands, especially on the distance of pylons from peoples’ homes.

He warned that Mr Kelly’s action in vetoing a minimum pylon distance in the Kildare County Development Plan could yet come back to haunt him.

“This latest EU health report confirms that our Kildare County Council Development Plan [on] health protection was the right one,” he said, adding that it confirmed that its campaign was the right one.

However, the review by the Department of the Environment into wind energy guidelines is limited to noise, proximity, and shadow flicker from pylons, and does not include health impacts. The department says this should be dealt with by health professionals and it has asked the Department of Health for views on this.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/eu-group-links-powerlines-with-childhood-leukaemia-317949.html#

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Science and conflict of interest in bioelectromagnetics by Dariusz Leszczynski, PhD,DSc

 
Science and conflict of interest in bioelectromagnetics
Science and conflict of interest in bioelectromagnetics

Swiss association Gigaherz will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its existence. On this occasion Gigaherz is organizing Jubiläums-Generalversammlung taking place in Thalvil (near Zurich) on March 7, …

Swiss association Gigaherz will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its existence. On this occasion Gigaherz is organizing Jubiläums-Generalversammlung taking place in Thalvil (near Zurich) on March 7, 2015. These are slides of presentation by Dariusz Leszczynski, the keynote speaker at this meeting, discussing the validity of the currently available science on cell phone radiation and health, in context of the currently ongoing WHO and ICNIRP preparation of the Environmental Health Criteria (presentation will be available afterwards on BRHP).

 Transcript

  • 1. SCIENCE AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN BIOELECTROMAGNETICS Dariusz Leszczynski, PhD, DSc Adjunct Professor, University of Helsinki, Finland Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Radiation and Health, Switzerland Member of the Advisory Board, Cellraid, Ltd, Oulu, Finland Science blogger @ BRHP – Between a Rock and a Hard Place Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 2. Content • Who I am… My expert experiences • Safety limits / Safety standards • Scientific evidence for health risk • Precautionary Principle • Conflict of Interest • WHO EMF Project = ICNIRP • Conclusions 2
  • 3. Who I am… My expert experience • Two doctorates and docentship in biochemistry • 22 years (1992-2013) at STUK – Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland • 2003-2007 as Head of Radiation Biology Laboratory • 2000-2013 as Research Professor • Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School 1997-1999 • Guangbiao Professor at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China 2006-2009 • Visiting Professor at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia 2012/2013 • Testified in US Senate hearing on cell phones and health, in 2009 • Participated in IARC 2011 classification of carcinogenicity of cell phone radiation • Advised e.g. Parliament of Finland, US National Academies, WHO, IARC, BfS, ICNIRP, Swiss National Foundation 3 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 4. “CELL PHONES REACH THE MARKET WITHOUT SAFETY TESTING The cellular phone industry was born in the early 1980s, when communications technology that had been developed for the Department of Defense was put into commerce by companies focusing on profits. This group, with big ideas but limited resources, pressured government regulatory agencies – particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – to allow cell phones to be sold without pre-market testing. The rationale, known as the “low power exclusion,” distinguished cell phones from dangerous microwave ovens based on the amount of power used to push the microwaves. At that time, the only health effect seen from microwaves involved high power strong enough to heat human tissue.” 4 Quote from the LifeExtension Magazine August 2007 The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation George Carlo interviewed by Sue Kovach Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 5. 5 Safety limits / Safety standards Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 6. Problems associated with the safety standards • No information whether/how cell phone radiation affects humans • No certainty that safety standards protect all users from anything besides thermal effects • Any equipment radiating below safety standards is considered safe, which might be misleading • Compliance with the safety standards is currently used as an excuse to stop research funding and to continue untamed deployment of new wireless technologies, without any testing • Non-thermal effects exist but are refused to be acknowledged and studied in depth because of the “excuse” of safety standards 6 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 7. Macro-scale dosimetry 7 Water Salt Sugar + = The problem: free movement of ions Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 8. 8 Scientific evidence for health risk Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 9. The problem of the funding ”firewalls” “Firewalls” – set to assure independence of the scientific research from the commercial interests Current system of the “firewalls” does not work: • the industry knows whom they are funding • the scientists know who is funding them • the “firewall” keeper is profiting from providing the “firewall” (administrating the industry’s money for the scientists) This situation resembles the proverbial ‘public secret’ – everyone knows about it but no one publicly admits to knowing… Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 9
  • 10. IARC evaluation in 2011 • 30 invited experts divided into four sub-groups • Dosimetry • Epidemiology • Animal studies • Mechanistic laboratory in vitro studies • Decisions by a consensus or by a simple majority • The vast majority of 30 experts voted for the classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen (Group 2B) 10 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 11. IARC 2011: Epidemiology • Interphone & Hardell studies • no reliable exposure data based on person’s memory • risk increase in long-term avid users • Children – only CEFALO • exposures for 2-4 years • has no statistical power to detect small risk • Bruce Armstrong, Australia • Maria Blettner, Germany • Elisabeth Cardis, Spain • Lennart Hardell, Sweden • Peter Inskip, USA • David Richardson, USA • Martin Roosli, Switzerland • Jonathan Sammet, USA • Malcolm Sim, Australia • Jack Siemiatycki, Canada 11 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 12. …after IARC: Epidemiology • Trend-data – Little et al. 2012: slow rise of brain cancer cases in USA • trend is similar to Interphone “prediction” but not Hardell “prediction” • Danish Cohort update study 2011 – no effect • no exposure data but just the length of phone subscription with service provider • Million Women study 2014 – no effect but exposure data inadequate • use of cell phone: ‘never’, ‘less than once a day’, ‘every day’ • CERENAT study from France 2014 – effect as in Inerphone and Hardell • no reliable exposure data based on person’s memory 12 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 13. Epidemiological evidence supports cancer risk • IARC classification was based on the results of Interphone and Hardell studies • In 2014, a new epidemiological study was published – the French CERENAT • The French study reached similar conclusions as Interphone and Hardell previously – long term avid use of cell phone increases a risk of developing brain cancer • Now, there are three replications of the same epidemiological type of study, the case-control study, that all suggest the cell phone radiation might increase risk of developing brain cancer 13 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 14. All epidemiology studies have completely unreliable exposure data • All epidemiology studies have completely unreliable exposure data • Length of calls or length of phone subscription with service provider or saying whether you ever or never used cell phone, does not inform about the real exposure of the cell phone user. • Using the above ”exposure data”, persons with very different radiation exposures are placed in the same exposed group for statistical evaluation. This dilutes results! • Ongoing cohort study COSMOS collects exposure data as length of calls! • There is a way to collect real exposure data by using apps installed on currently used smart phones 14 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 15. IARC evaluation: Human studies • The vast majority are “feelings” studies • Subjects asked how they feel and do they feel when radiation is on/off • EHS must exist – question is only what is radiation cut-off level • Otherwise EMF would be the only factor not causing individual sensitivity • Problem of EHS – studied by psychologists not physiologists – wrong methods • WHO definition of health – how to consider it? IARC classification justifies reasoning for “mental and social well-being” • Lack of studies examining biochemical responses of human tissues (!) • Single skin proteomics study • Two studies examined glucose metabolism in the brain 15 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 16. IARC evaluation: Animal studies • No classical toxicology possible • Not possible to overdose cell phone radiation because of heating effect • By classical toxicology standards RF would be judged as harmful to humans • Life-time exposures to radiation at doses similar to those emitted by cell phones show no effect – result is useless for human health risk estimation • Misleading claims that because animal studies, performed with cell phone radiation levels, do not show effects means that people are safe • Co-carcinogen studies show some effects – cell phone radiation might potentiate effects of carcinogenic chemicals or radiation • Just now published: Tillmann 2010 confirmed by Lerchl 2015! 16 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 17. IARC evaluation: Mechanistic studies •Laboratory evidence was considered, by voting (no consensus) as insufficient to support/show mechanism of cell phone radiation effects 17 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 18. Mechanism of some of the biological effects: Cellular stress response 18 Cell proliferation and expression of cancer regularory genes Leszczynski et al. 2002 Caraglia et al. 2005 Friedman et al. 2007 Buttiglione et al. 2007 Yu et al. 2008 Lee et al. 2008 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 19. 19 In my opinion, the currently available scientific evidence is sufficient to upgrade the carcinogenicity of cell phone radiation from the possible carcinogen (Group 2B) to the probable carcinogen (Group 2A) Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 20. 20 Precautionary Principle Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 21. Invoking the Precautionary Principle “Whether or not to invoke the Precautionary Principle is a decision exercised where scientific information is insufficient, inconclusive, or uncertain and where there are indications that the possible effects on environment, or human, animal or plant health may be potentially dangerous and inconsistent with the chosen level of protection.” 21 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 22. Reasons for invoking the Precautionary Principle Scientific information is insufficient, inconclusive, or uncertain • IARC classification as possible carcinogen (Group 2B) There are indications that the possible effects on human health may be potentially dangerous • epidemiological studies from Interphone, Hardell and CERENAT show an increased risk of brain cancer in long-term avid users Inconsistent with the chosen level of protection • epidemiological studies, showing increased risk in long-term avid users, were generated in populations using regular cell phones, meeting current safety standards = current safety standards are insufficient to protect users 22 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 23. The impact of implementing the Precautionary Principle • Precaution does not equal Prevention • Strong opposition from telecom industry • Technology providers can be made responsible to prove their product is safe • Requirement of making more efficient (less radiation emissions) technology • Limiting current rampant and uncontrolled deployment of wireless networks • Will create new knowledge through research • Will create new jobs in research and technology 23 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 24. 24 Conflict of Interest Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 25. What is Conflict of Interest (CoI) The Institute of Medicine of The US National Academies defines Conflict of Interest (CoI) as: “a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest”. Quotes selected/modified from Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2009 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 25
  • 26. The goal of the CoI policies Central goal of conflict of interest policies is to protect the integrity of professional judgment and to preserve public trust rather than to remeditate bias or mistrust after it occurs Quote modified from Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2009 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 26
  • 27. Sufficiency of the CoI disclosure The disclosure of individual and institutional financial relationships is a critical but limited first step in the process of identifying and responding to conflict of interest Quote modified from Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2009 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 27
  • 28. Why CoI disclosure might be insufficient • Person with the conflict of interest will be making decisions • How reliable will be decisions made by the person with the conflict of interest? • How reliable are the past decisions of persons who left the advisory expert committee to work for the industry? Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 28
  • 29. Criteria for evaluating CoI policies Proportionality Is the policy most efficiently directed at the most important CoI? Transparency Is the policy comprehensible and accessible to the individuals and institutions that may be affected by the CoI policy? Accountability Does the CoI policy indicate who is responsible for enforcing and revising it? Fairness Does the CoI policy apply equally to all relevant groups within an institution and in different institutions? Quoted after Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2009 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 29
  • 30. Specifics of the bioelectromagnetics • Bioelectromagnetics is a narrow research area. Unavoidably, all science is done, evaluated and presented to the general public and decision-makers by a small group of “influential players”. • Large research consortia, appointed committees and self-appointed committees consist of the same “influential players”. The same applies to the narrow field of “influential” peer-reviewers of new research projects and of articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 30
  • 31. As if by default, all of the bioelectromagnetics’ “influential players” claim in their disclosures to either have no CoI or, if they have it, they claim to be absolutely unaffected in their scientific decisions by their CoI. Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 31
  • 32. Trustworthiness of the unchecked, self-made CoI David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity, Washington, DC, wrote in December 2013 about Patricia Buffler, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA • Buffler’s own research found strong evidence suggesting that preschoolers should stay away from wet paint • Yet, in the past three years, Buffler was paid more than $360,000 to work as an expert witness on behalf of companies that used to sell lead- based paint Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 32
  • 33. Accountability in bioelectromagnetics committees • Commonly, the disclosures of CoI, even in very influential committees, are not standardized and seemingly not checked for their accuracy • The CoI disclosures rely entirely on the willingness of the discloser to make the full disclosure • There seems to be no accountability for any false, erroneous or incomplete disclosures Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 33
  • 34. Examples of the committees Committee Selections Disclosures Accountability Funding ICNIRP ”private club” Yes, but… No Unclear sources SCENIHR ”buddies system” Yes, but… Yes* EU BioInitiative ”private club” No? No Members’ own * Potential exclusion from the SCENIHR Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 34
  • 35. ICNIRP members are asked to declare any personal interests in relation to the activities of ICNIRP. Members’ declaration of personal interests are available on ICNIRP’s website. Accuracy checks are missing. Avoidance of “straight” answers? • Q: Do you have research support from the industry? • A: I have no personal support from the industry. Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 35
  • 36. Examples of the scientific problems in the bioelectromagnetics committees • Selectiveness in collecting/admissing evidence • All evidence listed but not considered in practice (ICNIRP) • Selection of predominantly supportive evidence (BioInitiative) • Single scientist making judgement/writing opinion paper • BioInitiative • SCENIHR • Committees do not want to talk to each other • Call for the round-table to resolve differences was flatly rejected by ICNIRP, BioInitiative and MMF/GSMA Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015 36
  • 37. Potential impact of the disclosed CoI • Even in a situation when disclosure of the CoI is done in full, what impact the disclosed CoI has on the decisions made by the discloser? • Even after the full disclosure of the CoI, person having the CoI might be making decisions. • Are these decisions influenced, or not influenced, by the CoI, also when it was disclosed? 37 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 38. Are there irreplaceable experts ? As the society at large and as the scientific community, should we be solely dependent on the ethics and the consciousness of persons having Conflict of Interest, or should we intervene and exclude persons with significant CoI from the advisory and decision-making role? 38 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 39. In dealings with experts, as a society and as scientists, should we exercise a full trust or a limited trust, and make sure that the ”skeletons” do not remain hidden? 39 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 40. ICNIRP hijacked the WHO EMF Project #1 • WHO EMF Project is working as “front” for implementing ICNIRP opinions • Head of the WHO EMF Project is Dr. Emilie van Deventer, an engineer, without expertise in evaluating bio-medical research • WHO EMF Project relies completely on bio-medical expertise from the ICNIRP 40 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 41. WHO EMF Project = ICNIRP 41
  • 42. • ICNIRP members play a lead role in preparation of the Environmental Health Criteria on RF-EMF (e.g. cell phone radiation) that will determine the future of the wireless technologies • ICNIRP, the self-appointing NGO, has no accountability at all – nobody controls its activites (not for CoI disclosures, not for errorenous decisions) • Can ”private club”, ICNIRP, be fully trusted with the EHC task that is certainly lobbied by the telecom? 42 ICNIRP hijacked the WHO EMF Project #2 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 43. • The World Health Organization Director General Dr. Margaret Chan does not care what the WHO EMF Project does with the science • The complaint about the WHO EMF Project’s handling of the writing process of the Environmental Health Criteria, was sent for response to… Dr. Emilie van Deventer, Head of the WHO EMF Project – clear problem of Conflict of Interest 43 ICNIRP hijacked the WHO EMF Project #3 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015
  • 44. Conclusions • IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen is a sufficient reason for invoking Precautionary Principle • Claims that the current safety standards protect all users are not supported by the scientific evidence • Users should be informed about the current scientific uncertainty and advised to limit exposures whenever possible and feasible and strongly discouraged from keeping cell phones close to body (in pockets) • Real radiation exposure data should be used in epidemiological studies • ALARA principle should be implemented for cell phone radiation exposures • Activity of WHO EMF Project and membersips of ICNIRP and SCENIHR should be overhauled… and clear accountability rules should be set 44 Dariusz Leszczynski; GIGAHERZ Symposium, Switzerland, March 7, 2015

Smart meters and public acceptance: comparative analysis and governance implications

Health, Risk & Society

Volume 16, Issue 3, 2014

Smart meters and public acceptance: comparative analysis and governance implications

Smart meters and public acceptance: comparative analysis and governance implications

DOI:
10.1080/13698575.2014.911821

David J. Hessa*

pages 243-258

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Although smart meters for electricity have received widespread acclaim as a means to achieve more resilient and sustainable electricity consumption, public opposition has emerged in several countries. In this article, I examine the reasons for public opposition in North America and the role of concern with health risks. The article provides an analysis of reasons given for opposing smart meters by 75 US and Canadian organisations listed in the 2013 EMF (electromagnetic field) Safety Network, a review of all news reports (499) in the Lexis-Nexis database relating to smart meters in seven US states and one Canadian province from 2010 to 2013 and case studies of policy responses in the same seven states and province. Thirty-one of the organisations in the EMF network focused mainly on health concerns about EMFs, and 44 organisations identified broader concerns as well as health risks. The more politically conservative groups focused on issues relating to privacy and government intrusion. Newspaper reports also identified health risks, although they also identified issues relating to cost overruns and privacy. The study of newspaper reporting in the seven US states and one Canadian province indicated that relevant agencies had responded to public concerns by developing opt-out provisions for meter installation, in some cases after protracted public campaigns. I consider possible patterns of opposition for future investigation: opposition may be higher where the roll-out of smart meters is rapid and without an opt-out provision; technological differences (for example, wired versus wireless) may contribute to levels of public opposition; and challengers to incumbent parties of either the right or left may also contribute to public opposition. In the ‘Conclusion’ section, I compare two policy strategies, one of which views public opposition as a lack of good communication from utilities, and the other which views it as an opportunity for innovation in systems design and improvements in governance policies.

Download full paper at:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13698575.2014.911821#preview

Smart meters, good or bad? (VIDEO)

Published on Mar 16, 2015

Nevada County Stop Smart Meters! leader Berry Bartolillo demonstrated the amount of RF emissions she can measure with her Acoustimeter, from smart meters attached to a wall near The Union newsroom

 SMART METERS, GOOD OR BAD?

While living in a Nevada City apartment complex, Berry Bartolillo said, she began to experience issues with nausea, irritability and insomnia.

“I had symptoms, but at the time I didn’t correlate them with the smart meter,” Bartolillo said. “As soon as they put the two gas smart meters on, I was immediately sick and I knew that that’s what it was… I don’t wish that feeling on my worst enemies. It’s really, really terrible.”

Bartolillo moved into her boyfriend’s basement to get “off the grid,” and is now leading the local charge to get smart meters banned in municipalities within Nevada County through her organization Nevada County Stop Smart Meters!, a branch of the flagship group that grew out of a grassroots effort in Scotts Valley in June 2010.

Stop Smart Meters! is an advocacy non-profit providing consultation and advice to dozens of groups around the world.

“This is not about covering costs or saving money or being green,” Director of Stop Smart Meters! Joshua Hart said. “This is about suppressing people’s free choice and enforcing the smart grid. What we’re demanding is immediate cease and desist on smart meters… It’s a big scam in California.”

Smart meters are digital meters that have replaced the old analog meters around the nation, to record statistics on a home or business’ energy use. They transmit energy consumption information to utility providers, such as Pacific Gas and Electric, on a more frequent schedule than analog meters, which require a meter reader to transmit information.

Smart meters record energy use at your home throughout the day, which, proponents say, enables consumers to monitor their consumption and make more informed energy choices.

The meter can also notify utility providers of a power outage, or allow the utility to remotely switch electricity service on or off, and uses a wireless two-way communication network that transmits radio frequencies, also known as RF.

“It was a decision from the California Public Utilities Commission to upgrade our system,” PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers said. “It was at the direction of the CPUC that we install these smart meters.”

Health impacts

The potential health effects related to RF emissions has been disputed by both providers and critics of smart meters. Opponents of the meters claim they cause a slew of symptoms including headaches, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and tumors.

The World Health Organization’s May 2011 International Agency for Research on Cancer report classified RF electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer” associated with wireless communications, such as cell phones.

The WHO has stated it would conduct a formal assessment on the risks of smart meter RF exposure, but the report is not yet available.

“It’s not just smart meters, it’s cell phones, cell towers and all forms of wi-fi connection,” said Nevada County Stop Smart Meters! member Heather Lane. “The medical industry not only doesn’t recognize the condition and symptoms that people sensitive to RF experience, they treat you like it’s a psychological disorder and they refuse to turn off these devices for you.”

According to the American Cancer Society, smart meters give off non-ionizing RF radiation.

The American Cancer Society also classifies RF radiation as a possible carcinogen that could increase an individual’s risk to cancer, though the non-profit says it isn’t clear what risk, if any, there might be from living in a home with a smart meter.

“There’s new studies coming out, new peer-reviewed science showing smart meters are harmful,” said Hart. “It has been documented in several cities that they also cause fires and the burning down of homes.”

PG&E officials, though, argue that smart meters transmit during a small fraction of the day and do not cause structural damage to homes.

The California Council on Science and Technology, a non-partisan non-profit corporation established by the California Legislature, conducted a 2011 study on the health impacts of RF from smart meters that concluded that RF exposure levels from smart meters are below the Federal Communications Commission’s safety thresholds.

Am I being tracked?

When you plug into an electrical socket, flip on your light switch, or turn on your computer, you are connecting to an electric grid — a network of transmission lines, substations, and transformers that deliver electricity from the power plant to your home or business.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, our current electric grid was built in the 1890s and today consists of more than 9,200 electric generating units with more than 1 million megawatts of capacity connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines.

As digital and wireless technology has evolved over the years, the desire for a new kind of grid that can handle the increase of computerized equipment and manage the complexity of electricity has come to the forefront — a smart grid.

Similar to the Internet, the smart grid would work with the electrical grid to respond digitally to quickly changing electric demands.

In October 2009, when President Barack Obama announced the American Recovery and Reinvestment Smart Grid projects, he described the significance of the transition to a smart grid, saying “It will make our grid more secure and more reliable, saving us some of the $150 billion we lose each year during power outages. It will allow us to more effectively transport renewable energy generated in remote places to large population centers, so that a wind farm in rural South Dakota can power homes in Chicago.”

Proponents of the smart grid claim the network would increase integration of large-scale renewable energy systems, integrate customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems, and improve security through the use of wireless technology, such as smart meters, to collect data efficiently.

“Smart meters have a variety of benefits,” Ehlers said. “PG&E takes customer privacy very seriously, and the information based on customer accounts is mostly for the customers to use, to track and see their usage.”

Smart meter adversaries, though, argue that information transmitted from the meters into the smart grid gives utility companies access to data that violates the privacy of consumers.

“Every appliance has its own unique electrical fingerprint,” local resident Darlene Engebretsen said. “Smart meters know when you turn on your dishwasher, your hair dryer, or your electric stove. Throughout the day, 24-7, all your usage patterns are visible to the company and anyone else who hacks into your system… It’s an illegal wiretap, which violates your constitutional rights. It’s another big brother thing.”

Death of a smart meter

During a Feb. 11 Nevada City council meeting, more than 30 attendees spoke to the council about their views and experiences with smart meters, imploring them to approve a ban on the devices.

“We’re talking about the health, safety and privacy of our constituents,” local resident Judi Caler said. “A house with a smart meter can be hacked; they can tell when you’re home and where you are in your home.”

PG&E reports that around 96 percent of meters with Nevada City addresses have already been converted to electric and gas smart meters, though 3 percent of city residents have opted out, and currently use a traditional analog meter.

According to Hart, more than 55 local governments in the state oppose the smart meter program, and 15 have passed an ordinance prohibiting them in their community, though those numbers could not be confirmed by each individual jurisdiction.

According to City Manager Mark Prestwich, local governments do not have any direct regulatory control over utility companies. Prestwich said the city would revisit the issue at a future meeting, though, that would be dependant on completion of other prioritized city agenda items.

Council member Jennifer Ray said she felt Nevada County Stop Smart Meters! presented the city with a lot of anecdotal information.

“There really are no longitudinal studies to substantiate the claim that it really causes health problems,” Ray said. “Correlation isn’t causation, and that’s something that is important to keep in mind. However, I am supportive of individual’s personal rights to opt out, if they chose to do so.”

In December 2014, the California Public Utilities Commissions, which regulates all privately owned electric, natural gas, and telecommunications companies in the state, including PG&E, approved a smart meter opt-out provision that allows utility providers to recover $35.44 million in costs associated with providing consumers opt-out options.

Currently, PG&E offers an opt-out program for all of its customers that includes an initial $75 fee to replace a smart meter with an analog meter, and an ongoing $10 monthly fee for three years, though PG&E CARE program customers get reduced fees.

“We understand that some customers have expressed concerns about smart meters, and we support individual customer choice,” Ehlers said. “We want those customers to know that they can opt out of the smart meter program at any time, for any reason. We definitely encourage them to contact us if they want to opt out, and we’re happy to quickly process those requests.”

PG&E officials say the average time it takes to replace a smart meter is 10 days, but Stop Smart Meters! members claim that it takes much longer. Nevada City council member Duane Strawser decided to test that claim by requesting PG&E to remove the smart meter attached to the outside of his home.

“It took one day shy of a month to get the smart meter changed on my house,” Strawser said. “We wanted a true analog meter put on the house, but we were given a meter that is half smart meter and half analog, what they call a Trojan or a hybrid. So I have left another voicemail with PG&E asking for the analog meter, which is what we asked for and what we were promised.”

Strawser also attempted to get the smart meters removed from his local business Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop, and was told businesses are not allowed to opt out. Chris Kaiser, president of California Organics, a Nevada City organic whole foods market, got the same response.

“Just as a property right issues, it seems like there’s a disrespect of personal property,” said Kaiser. “We get these things installed almost in the dark of night, and we have to beg and pay for a way to get out of it… But there is a non-escape clause for businesses, we’re not allowed to opt out.”

According to Ehlers, smart meters allow businesses to better understand their energy usage and utilize technology available to them. CPUC officials told The Union that the commission didn’t consider businesses for the opt-out program, and would not specify the reasons why businesses were not included in the December opt-out provision.

To get more information, or opt out of PG&E’s Smart Meter program, call 1-866-743-0263.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

http://www.theunion.com/news/15172671-113/smart-meters-good-or-bad-video