The headline on the Mail Tribune’s May 31 article “You’re getting a smart meter soon” certainly sets the tone: You are being told what you will get. If you don’t want it, you can pay a large fee which won’t get you any more service than you are currently receiving.
More important is the claim quoted in the story from the so-called “independent” California Council on Science and Technology: “There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters,” a claim made because the average radio frequency microwave radiation (RF) broadcast by smart meters falls below the 1996 FCC safety limit. (The California Council on Science and Technology was established by the California legislature and receives the majority of its funding from government agencies and institutions. Because the State of California, through its public utility commission, is actively supporting the rollout of smart meters, we do not consider California government-funded sources to be “independent”.)
The FCC safety limit is based on how much heat the RF causes in the body. What the FCC has willfully ignored is that there are other mechanisms besides heat by which RF causes harm to living things. A great deal of research shows that RF exposures well under this out-of-date FCC safety limit can cause harm.
For example, studies in 2016 by the U.S. National Toxicology Program(1) and in 2018 by the Ramazzini Institute(2) clearly demonstrated that exposures at frequencies emitted by smart meters caused both cancer and DNA breaks in animals at levels well below the FCC’s own “safe” limits.
Other replicated effects at lower levels of exposure(3) include neurological damage in animals after even short exposures, including leakage of the blood brain barrier.(4) Even more alarming is the fact that research has clearly established how children absorb far more RF radiation than adults, especially in the brain, making them much more vulnerable to harm.(5)
The article also claims that “… the radio frequency of a cellphone puts out 1,100 times more energy than a smart meter,” and that a “a wi-fi system puts out about 2.2 times more energy.” This seems grossly misleading, and deliberately confuses average power with peak power. According to the Silver Spring Networks Whitepaper on Radio Frequency Emissions(6) provided by Pacific Power, the average power output of a wireless laptop and the smart meters look pretty much the same, because they average out the daily output of each one. However, while laptop emissions are continuous, smart meter emissions come out in short, high-frequency pulses about 1,000 times higher than the average RF power a laptop puts out.(6,8) They know this, but don’t tell you. While recent scientific research shows that even the RF emitted from laptops has harmful effects,(7) other research indicates the exposure to pulsed RF in a smart meter will have a potentially greater, and more biologically disruptive, effect.(9)
In addition to the health risks posed by smart meters, there are also privacy concerns. Smart meters send and receive information. According to an article in the MIT Technology Review by Antonio Regalado, senior editor of Biomedicine: “Because smart meters yield readings frequently (every 15 minutes in some cases), it’s theoretically feasible to deduce what is happening inside a home — what appliances are being used, how many people live there, even what schedules they keep. In 2011, the University of Washington(10) showed that electrical signatures could determine if a TV in a house was playing “Shrek 2” or “The Lion King,” and are able to tell which electrical devices you are using in your home and when you are using them, which allows them to construct information on your habits and schedules.”(11)
According to an article in Politico, “’Smart online power meters are tracking energy use — and that data may soon be worth more than the electricity they distribute.”(12) When they sell your data without your permission to corporations and government agencies, that is a violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
For information on what you can do to try to protect yourself and your family and keep your safe, reliable analog meter, please visit http://www.freedom2sayno2smartmeters.org/.
Eli Dumitru of Medford works as a caregiver for the elderly. He has been a volunteer activist on several causes, including facilitating the Green Party meetings in Eugene in 1996 and was a member of the steering committee of GMO-Free Jackson County in 2012 and 2013. He is currently on the steering committee for Freedom to Say No to Smart Meters.