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Wireless Power Meters May Present Radiation Risks

2/22/2011 11:46:53 AM

Tags: Mary Cordaro, Valerie Tourangeau, San Rafael Patch, wireless power usage meters, remote power meters, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailA new study suggests that wireless power usage meters being installed in northern California homes may have significantly higher radio frequency radiation levels than previously thought, according to a San Rafael Patch article today. The devices, which allow for remote power and gas meter readings and eliminate the need for human meter readers, have sparked controversy, protests and installation bans in some cities, the Patch reports.

Sage Associates, environmental consultants based in Santa Barbara, say the study found FCC public safety limit violations could be possible within 6 inches of the meter, says Barry Smith, a spokesman for the Environmental Health Coalition of West Marin. “SmartMeter radiation will be a permanent part of the home, and people have no idea how high their chronic RF exposure might be," Smith said in a statement.

The California Council on Science and Technology has concluded that the meters are safe, but the Sage Associates study suggests that consumers need more information about emissions of all devices, including SmartMeters.

“They’re great for saving energy, but are they safe?” baubiologist and healthy home consultant Mary Cordaro asks, pointing out that the smart meters will soon be rolled out nationwide. Valerie Tourangeau, a healthy home coach from Chandler, Arizona, says most people in her state don’t know the wireless meters are being installed. “There is no notice, and unless you’re home, they are installed without your knowledge,” she reports.

Are you concerned about radiation from wireless power meters? Should utilities give us a choice before they’re installed? Drop us a line and let us know what you think.

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4/6/2011 6:01:29 PM
One of the problems with true SmartMeter technology is one of bandwidth. Many AMR systems are tied to the power line frequency, which essentially limits communications to 60 baud. Fine for getting readings and load control; too slow for communicating with appliances or sending real-time information back to the customer. So some systems use wireless and others by sending a radio signal over the power line. The latter is fraught with problems, which may be why the unnamed Northern California utility opted for a wireless system. Something not mentioned by the Environmental Health Commission of West Marin is that the standard meter can is grounded and is about four inches deep. So even if they exceed FCC levels within 6 inches, you have a grounded piece of metal between it and the house, plus a four-inch offset. That means that it would penetrate at the most two inches into the wall. Given that the standard stud wall is about four inches thick, this means the alleged dangerous levels wouldn’t enter the living space.

Mike Pierce
2/23/2011 11:09:57 AM
The use of RF in consumer facing products has increased considerably over the past decade, and continues to increase. Prominent examples of this are the prolific use of cellular phones, wireless routers, and even microwave ovens. A lack of education on smart metering technology has led to rising public concern over their use and associated health risks. Although smart meters utilize RF technology, they represent significantly lower RF exposure for consumers than nearly all other products, such as cellular phones, that are used daily without concern. The bottom line is that smart meters represent no known health hazard and have, as noted above, significantly lower exposure levels than most other typical devices that emit radio waves.

Rich Volant
2/22/2011 8:26:41 PM
RF (radio frequency) radiation is well understood. It has been studied for decades. It can warm or burn tissue but can not ionize tissue like x-rays can. The photon energy is far too weak to cause cancer. The worst you can get is a burn and that usually takes far more output than these devices are capable of. The FCC limits are very conservative and so should be a good guide. The people who try to scare you with this and other myths make their living by getting grants to do stupid studies, which usually are inconclusive thus needing another grant for another study.

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