New Report on Possible Biological Effects from Smart Meters and Appliances

This posting is intended to highlight a new report published by Ronald M. Powell (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1975), entitled, “Biological Effects from RF Radiation at Low-Intensity Exposure, Based on the BioInitiative 2012 Report, and the Implications for Smart Meters and Smart Appliances,” latest version dated June 11, 2013.

Dr. Powell has developed a distinctive way to explain the implications of the BioInitiative 2012 Report as it applies to wireless smart meters and smart appliances.

Brief commentary on the report:

  1. The report is somewhat unique in that it discusses not only smart meter RF emissions but also addresses emissions associated with so-called “smart appliances” that many people are beginning to purchase for their homes.
  1. The report shows that RF radiation emitted from smart meters and smart appliances can affect human health at distances far in excess than will be acknowledged by smart grid advocates.  Refer to the figure below (extracted from the report).
  1. In simple terms, chronic exposure to pulsed RF radiation fields at levels above the horizontal yellow band in the figure is a cause for concern.

Smart Meter and Appliance Power Densities

Minor constructive criticisms of the report:

  1. The report by Dr. Powell refers to the thresholds of 0.3 to 0.6 nanowatts per square centimeter as the “new maximum permitted RF exposure limits proposed by the BioInitiative 2012 Report.”  This is not quite accurate.  The authors of the BioInitiative 2012 Report were careful to refer to those thresholds as “precautionary action levels.”  The concept is that the recommended precautionary action levels are not intended as hard and fast “limits” that cannot be exceeded.  Measures should be taken in order to prudently avoid exposures to the maximum extent practical.  Consistent with this philosophy, you certainly would not force people to be exposed to RF exposure in their own homes on an involuntary basis in excess of those levels.
  1. Dr. Powell does not account for “absorption by obstructions, such as walls or other objects, which can lower RF power levels.”  Instead, he assumes, for the smart meter, that there is an antenna gain of 2.5 both in front of the smart meter as well as behind the smart meter.  Utility industry sources usually state that the back side of the smart meter with an attached wall (assuming a typical outside-of-home mounting) would reduce exposure levels inside the home by at least a factor of 10 (compared to outside the home).  To provide a bit more balance to the discussion, I would prefer to include an additional operational scenario that includes modest reflective and attenuation effects within the home which would result in overall exposure levels inside the home being reduced by a factor of 5 as compared to levels at distances calculated as being in front of the smart meter.  If one were to perform these calculations for the configuration and assumptions outlined by Dr. Powell, it will show that the RF levels inside the home from a smart meter are still substantially greater than radiation levels emitted at the same distances calculated for smart appliances.  For the above figure, this would mean that a more realistic power density line for smart meter radiation levels inside the home would fall somewhere in the region between the solid green line and the dashed blue line.  Additionally, refer to the table below to help illustrate this point.

Power Density Comparison Levels

Overall, the published report adeptly applies the information contained in the BioInitiative 2012 Report to the real-world of smart meters and smart appliances.  It provides a significant contribution to the discussion about the controversy surrounding these devices.

Whether you generally accept Dr. Powell’s results of possible biological effects from wireless smart meters and smart appliances will probably depend on whether you accept the FCC exposure guidelines as acceptable or believe that the biologically based effects reported in the BioInitiative 2012 Report are more credible. 

Based upon a review of the collective evidence, the moderator for this website has concluded that the FCC’s position is no longer tenable that only thermal RF effects are relevant in setting exposure standards intended to protect the public.  We need a new set of exposure standards that is based upon the multitude of documented biologically observed effects and not just based on an antiquated limit system that essentially treats the human organism as a piece of meat to be heated in a microwave oven.

For the full report, click on the link below.

Powell Report.BioInitiative Report 2012.Applied to Smart Meters and Smart Appliances


Supplemental Information on Smart Appliances:

In Dr. Powell’s report, he states, “Smart Appliances will increase the RF radiation inside each home.  Verifiable data on the actual RF power output of the transmitters that will be used in the Smart Appliances is hard to find at present; but a likely value is 0.1 watt, since that is a common value used for other short-range wireless devices.  The antenna gain is assumed to be 3 dBi or 2.”

According to Richard Tell Associates in a report entitled,  “An Analysis of Radio-frequency Fields Associated with Operation of the Hydro One Smart Meter System,” dated October 13, 2010:  “Within each home equipped with a Smart Meter, different electrical devices, such as furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioning systems will be able to communicate with the electric utility system via a very low power transmitter at each of those devices.  If so equipped, the transmitters operate with approximately 180 milliwatts (0.18 W).   The gain of the antenna inside these premise devices is approximately -2 dBi.”  …  This would actually infer a fractional antenna gain of about 0.6.  In fact, the Richard Tell Associates’ data may just indicate absorption within the appliance itself which Dr. Powell clearly indicated in his assumptions that this possible aspect was not addressed.

So although Richard Tell Associates reports a higher value on power level than assumed by Dr. Powell, the reported antenna gain for a smart appliance is considerably less than assumed by Dr. Powell.  No doubt each device will be somewhat different, but if Richard Tell Associates’ information is more representative of the operational norm, then Dr. Powell’s overall power density levels for smart appliances would need to be adjusted downward by about 50%.  On a logarithmic scale, this doesn’t make that much difference (on the above figure) and if you have a smart washer and a smart dryer located next to each other, the area power density levels could then reflect the levels indicated by Dr. Powell, depending on how often the smart appliances transmit a signal.

I certainly advise anyone who purchases a smart appliance to be sure that the RF transmitter can be disabled, not only for the RF health concerns, but due to privacy risks as well.  Please refer to a separate posting for more information:

About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
This entry was posted in Smart Grid, Smart Meters, and RF Emissions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New Report on Possible Biological Effects from Smart Meters and Appliances

  1. Pingback: WI smart meter minute: ACTION ALERT #4, tell governor, lawmakers they will be held responsible | Stop Smart Meters Wisconsin

  2. Thank you for your efforts in sharing this valuable information. I will gladly share this website across the country.

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