Two weeks ago we got our notice that Smart meters would be installed at our home in Occidential California. We immediately contacted PG&E saying we were opting out because of health concerns. We were told that that was not an option and that someone would get back to us. The following article outline how the Precautionary Principle is being ignored by PG&E.
Peter Phillips and Mary Lia
by Alexander Binik,
Executive Director, DE-Toxics Institute, Fairfax, CA February 8, 2010
As re cell phones (and previously re tobacco, asbestos, phthalates, etc), industry uses its PR and the media
to tell us that any health concerns are groundless and that those raising them are fear-mongering. And, as
with these other examples, the truth is very different.
1) PG&E will be installing their wireless so-called smart meters (replacing our current electric meters at
all our homes and businesses) throughout Marin and San Francisco beginning July 2010. They have a
published schedule for installation throughout their service area of northern & central CA. They have
already been installed in some areas; where they have been installed, many residents have been
complaining that the meters give false impossibly-high readings (even for periods when the resident was
out of the country and virtually nothing remained plugged in at their residences) . No one is given an
opportunity to opt out and instead retain one’s current meter.
2) This is being promoted, regionally & nationally, as part of the smart grid update to electrical
distribution; but, in fact, those features of the smart grid that help move electrical power between regions
can be implemented without using wireless smart meters where we live and work.
3) The claim is that the meters will help us monitor and reduce our energy use and therefore our carbon
footprint. The reality is that this claim is extremely dubious, and-once the system is fully in place-our
overall carbon footprint could even increase because of this program.
4) On the other hand, it will enable PG&E to save its corporation significant dollars by laying off its meter
readers. And there are billions of dollars to be made by corporations nationwide who are supplying the
electronic equipment for the program. This is another major driving force (including corporate pressure
on the Obama administration).
5) The problem is that the meters and their corresponding data collectors broadcast very frequent bursts of powerful
microwave radio frequency (RF) radiation; each meter further “repeats” the signal from numerous other meters in the
surrounding neighborhood. In concert, this creates a dense mesh network of ongoing RF radiation that is transmitted
throughout our indoor and outdoor environment, day and night without cease. There is no opportunity for customers to
opt out of this program nor the “electrosmog” radiation exposure it creates - the public cannot escape it. PG&E has never
had the meters independently tested for safety with regard to the chronic, near-constant exposure to the highfrequency
radiation they emit.
6) The industry claims that the amount of radiation is too small to harm anyone. This claim is based on
standards exclusively for thermal (heating) damage that such radiation can cause to cells, but ignores the
substantial range of harm that scientific experiments have shown it can cause through non-thermal
effects-DNA breaks and the possible cancer implications, neurological symptoms, etc.-in other words,
the exact same situation as is the case re cell phones. One critical difference is that we can choose when
and how we use cell phones and how we expose ourselves and those around us to their radiation; with
smart meters that will be impossible!
7) In claiming this radiation exposure is safe, industry follows the same flawed reasoning as re chemical
exposure: they ignore the cumulative impacts of repetitive (as opposed to one-time) exposures. They also
ignore the additive exposures from multiple sources of such radiation to which we are exposed (cell
phones, cordless home phones, wi-fi, home networking, and the list goes on and on).
8) Every individual has a different tolerance for such cumulative exposures before their impact (often in
combination with chemical/heavy metal exposures) show up as impaired health, but already health
practitioners are seeing major increases in the number of people presenting with various health complaints
(beginning with headaches, insomnia, forgetfulness, confusion, etc.) which go away when their exposures
are significantly reduced. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and once folks have been exposed nonstop
and continuously to more layers and layers of RFR’s for some time, the level of health problems will
increase exponentially; unfortunately, because of our individual susceptibilities and myriad other
exposures and stressors, it will be impossible to prove that any specific illness has been caused
exclusively by a particular RFR exposure.
9) As already mentioned, there is now no way to opt out, even if one knows (and one’s doctor verifies)
that one is “electrically sensitive”. These meters are unnecessary. Even if they were to be put into place,
it could be done by, say, fiber optics cable connection to the home (more expensive than wireless). And
even if a wireless meter were to be used, PGE could establish procedures for “opt out’s” that would turn
on the wireless signal for less than 1 minute a month in order to read the meter, rather than continuously
with pulse peaks every 45 seconds or so. (Of course, even then we would still be getting irradiated by the
signals from our non-opting-out neighbors’ meters.)
10) The next generation of all, home appliances, including heating and cooling systems, will include
devices that receive from, and transmit to, the meters constantly around the clock. Disabling such devices
will be difficult, expensive, and will void the manufacturer’s warranty for the appliance. Here’s the
greenwashing: PGE claims that having 24/7 monitoring capabilities of all our appliances will mean that
we can take time during our workday to be constantly checking in on our electrical energy use and turning
devices down or off to reduce peak loads (as though we don’t already know that, during the hottest
summer days, peak loads are during the daytime when air conditioners are in great use). Among the things
PGE ignores is that these devices will be “vampire” devices, not only emitting their own radiation but also
using energy which collectively may well amount to more than would be saved via extra
conservation. And the cumulative additional radiation will be considerable. Besides the social and
emotional costs of being ill, there is the additional cost of lost wages and of medical treatment and
medications. Unfortunately, because they are likely to buy into the greenwashing claims, major national
environmental organizations (Sierra Club, NRDC, etc.) are likely to support installation of these meters
without fully examining their potential health consequences.
11) In addition to adding greatly and directly to our high-frequency radiation exposure, the transmitting
meters also often put high frequencies directly on home and building wiring. This can happen deliberately
through signaling to electrical loads or inadvertently through poor engineering. Poorly engineered meters
can cause electrical pollution (known to public health scientists as “dirty electricity”) by putting the
transmitted signal directly on home wiring or by the way they draw power to operate. Whether deliberate
or inadvertent, studies are finding such high frequencies on building wiring are related to a host of health
problems, similar to those described above for the RFR’s.
12) Implementing this wireless meter program-universally and without real prior public and scientific
examination of public health implications-is a very significant violation of the Precautionary
Principle. We will be paying with our health for decades and generations for this greenwashing program
which will actually benefit only PGE stockholders and major electronics manufacturers.