[Editor Note: This blog article consists of a document authored by Richard H. Conrad, Ph.D., intended as a letter addressed to a utility company considering the installation of smart meters.]
NINE REASONS WHY TODAY’S SMART METER SYSTEMS ARE A MISTAKE
by Richard H. Conrad, Ph.D. biochemist
Smart electric meters and smart grid systems track and record details of customers’ energy usage, and transmit the information to utilities wirelessly at microwave frequencies. Authorities are attempting to make smart meters mandatory. They are usually installed without permission and sometimes against the wishes of homeowners. Smart meters fill homes with pulsed microwave radiation 24/7 without consent, and infringe on the privacy, security, safety and health of residents.
For the above reasons there is world-wide opposition to smart meters. Fifty-seven jurisdictions in the US are opposed to mandatory smart meters. Fifteen jurisdictions in California have made smart meter installations illegal. More than half of the States in the US have wireless smart meter opposition groups. The opposition is growing and is persistent.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission (January 2012) called for an immediate moratorium on smart meter installation and in October 2013 restated their call for a moratorium based on new scientific evidence that “clearly demonstrates adverse health effects in the human population from smart meter emissions.” Many experts concur (see References and Notes section).
Safe wired (vs. wireless) alternatives that enhance sustainability and do not infringe on personal rights are technologically feasible right now (see Alternatives at end of References and Notes section) but in most cases are not being offered.
There is an enormous amount of propaganda being disseminated by the smart meter manufacturers and others that paints a picture far from the truth. Smart meters cause more problems than they solve. Here is the reality:
1) NO REAL COST JUSTIFICATION
In January 2014, Northeast Utilities in Massachusetts filed a statement to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities which concluded: “There is no rational basis for AMI (smart meter Advanced Metering Infrastructure). …. there is ample evidence that this technology choice will be unduly costly for customers and that the objectives of grid modernization are achievable with technologies and strategies that rank substantially higher in terms of cost effectiveness. …. the costs associated with AMI are currently astronomical, while the incremental benefits for customers are small in comparison. …. There is no cost justification that can support the implementation of (smart meters). … consider the results and experiences of recent and ongoing pilots before blindly moving forward with an AMI mandate”.
The Attorney Generals of Illinois, Connecticut and Michigan have independently stated they oppose smart meters on the basis of high cost and little or no benefit. Smart meters have not been saving consumers money but have caused sky-rocketing utility bills, resulting in class-action lawsuits in California and Texas.
2) INVASION OF PRIVACY RIGHTS
Smart meters relay detailed information about times and amounts of electrical power usage. Energy usage data allows the reconstruction of a household’s activities, including when residents are home or away. Even in the absence of “smart”/wi-fi transmitting appliances and Zigbee chips, the specific appliances consuming power and their time of consumption can be determined through analysis by special software developed at MIT. (This is for the sole benefit of the utilities; the statement that consumers will make use of an ability to see a running analysis of their consumption is propaganda – most customers are not interested.) One cannot rely on a utility’s claim that they will not release or sell information to other parties. Smart meters are an open portal into every home – an unacceptable intrusion into customers‘ privacy. A very slippery slope.
A related invasion of rights is the plan for the utilities to eventually be able to control major household appliances. This will be a serious infringement on freedom within one’s own home; the freedom to use such devices whenever they are needed. It will impose forced limitations on when one can wash dishes, wash or dry clothes, take a hot bath, or run the A/C. Another very slippery slope.
3) SUSCEPTIBILITY TO HACKING AND CYBER-TERRORISM
Utilities have not established adequate protections from hacking or for preventing sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized persons or entities. The FBI, a former CIA director and industry experts have expressed alarm over the hacking and cyber-terrorism potentials of a smart grid. Smart meter/grid technology greatly increases vulnerability to cyber-terrorism. Utilities are not likely to ever be able to effectively defend against these threats – it will be a never-ending risk – an expensive on-going battle with hackers and terrorists.
4) ADVERSE BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF MICROWAVE RADIATION
Low level microwave radiation is not innocuous. Thousands of peer-reviewed research publications (Bioinitiative 2012; January 16, 2014) show adverse biological effects from pulsed microwave frequency radiation at exposure levels well below FCC limits; often lower by orders of magnitude and in the range of emissions from smart meters. (For non-thermal biological effects, peak intensity is more important than averaged power. 24/7 exposure to smart meter pulses is actually an exposure of the same order of magnitude as using a cell phone for a much shorter time.) Studies have shown detrimental effects of low-level microwave exposure on animals, birds and bees. In animals: reduced fertility and sperm viability, disturbance of immune function, increased numbers of breaks in DNA, breaching of the blood-brain barrier making it more porous to toxins, increased oxidative stress, increased cancer rates and many other effects. See “Important letters from experts” in References and Notes section. In humans, alterations in brain waves, sleep patterns and heart rates; increased cancer rates. There would be much more known about health effects in humans but funds have been withdrawn for research on non-thermal effects, and non-thermal findings by the EPA have been kept under cover.
5) POSSIBLE HUMAN CARCINOGEN
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified microwave radiation, specifically including that emitted by smart meters, as a possible human carcinogen. This means that in order to continue to receive electrical power, people are being forced to live with a device on their homes that emits possibly carcinogenic microwaves 24/7. The results of thousands of studies strongly suggest that microwaves are not safe for humans. At least with cell phones a person has a choice whether or not to use them. If the smart meter roll-out plan had been submitted as a proposal for an experiment on human beings, which it undeniably is, any Institutional Review Board, including the division of the NIH that supervises such experiments on humans, would have rejected it outright. Millions of persons world-wide are being used as guinea pigs without their permission. The smart meter roll-out violates Nuremberg principles.
6) FCC AND INDUSTRY SPIN
The FCC has never actually said that adherence to their standards is a guarantee of complete safety. It is industry spin that has interpreted and proclaimed it this way. The FCC says that their MPE, or Maximum Permissible Exposure level, was selected to protect from the overheating of tissue (this and electric shock are the only hazards of microwave/radio frequencies that the FCC officially recognizes). Their MPE does not protect from short and long-term health effects from lower, non-thermal levels such as emitted by smart meters, cell phones and Wi-Fi. Therefore any smart meter plans or decisions based on the MPE are completely invalid.
The FCC admits that non-thermal effects do exist and have been reported to effect human EEG and sleep patterns and then goes on to say that biological effects do not necessarily mean harmful health effects in humans and more research is needed; this is akin to saying that you are using low-level microwave emitting devices at your own risk (see FCC DOUBLE-SPEAK in References and Notes section).
The many non-thermal effects that have been found (thousands of peer-reviewed research papers) should raise red flags, but instead are ignored by our regulatory bodies as if they simply do not exist. Yet smart meters are becoming obligatory, and PUCs and utilities are basing claims of safety on the FCC’s standards. See REFERENCES AND NOTES section at the end of this document for a description of THE FCC DOGMA).
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1993: The FCC’s exposure standards are “seriously flawed.” (Official comments to the FCC on guidelines for evaluation of electromagnetic effects of radio frequency radiation, FCC Docket ET 93-62, November 9, 1993.)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 1993: “FCC rules do not address the issue of long-term, chronic exposure to RF fields.” (Comments of the FDA to the FCC, November 10, 1993.)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 1994: The FCC’s standard is inadequate because it “is based on only one dominant mechanism — adverse health effects caused by body heating.” (Comments of NIOSH to the FCC, January 11, 1994.)
Amateur Radio Relay League Bio-Effects Committee, 1994: “The FCC’s standard does not protect against non-thermal effects.” (Comments of the ARRL Bio-Effects Committee to the FCC, January 7, 1994.)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2002: Norbert Hankin of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Center for Science and Risk Assessment, Radiation Protection Division, wrote: “The FCC’s current (radio frequency/microwave) exposure guidelines, as well as those of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection, are thermally based, and do not apply to chronic, nonthermal exposure situations. … the generalization by many that the guidelines protect human beings from harm by any or all mechanisms is not justified. … there are reports that suggest that potentially adverse health effects, such as cancer, may occur. … Federal health and safety agencies have not yet developed policies concerning possible risk from long-term, nonthermal exposures.”
The FCC standards were set before, and do not take into consideration, the WHO’s IARC decision to classify microwave radiation, including the radiation from smart meters, as a possible human carcinogen. This is yet another reason why the FCC standards do not protect consumers. Certainly smart meters cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered safe. Any organization that bases claims of “no long or short-term health effects from smart meters” or “smart meters are safe” or “smart meters have been determined to be safe” on the FCC dogma is hiding behind non-existent liability protection.
Contrary to industry propaganda, the only “testing” of the safety of smart meters has been their deployment. The only results of this “testing” that have been reported are survey reports and many personal testimonials of health effects (some of which were accompanied by sworn affidavits) including testimonials from the “Smart Meter Health Effects Survey”. See the Survey and its results and testimonials at:
(testimonials are in Appendix 6, beginning on page 65): http://www.mainecoalitiontostopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Exhibit-10-Smart-Meter-Health-Effects-Report-Survey2.pdf
The report from a previous survey: http://www.conradbiologic.com/pdfs/EMSnetwork-Survey-Results-FinalReduced.pdf
Additional testimonials can be read at: http://www.conradbiologic.com/pdfs/Santa-Rosa-Smart-Meter-Hearings.PDF
Nine countries (including China, Russia and much of Europe) representing 40% of the world’s population, have much lower exposure limits than the US; some countries have established guidelines more than 100 times lower. Certainly China and Russia are not known to be overly protective of their populations.
7) MENTAL AND PHYSICAL DEBILITATION
Many people worldwide independently report becoming electrically sensitive for the first time in their lives after a smart meter was installed, and can no longer tolerate using cell phones or Wi-Fi. It is important to note that in many of these cases, brand new and severe symptoms began to appear days or weeks BEFORE they learned that a smart meter was nearby (see Survey report). Therefore effects on human functioning are a reality and not paranoia or hysteria. Because of the severity of these symptoms, in many cases people are forced to abandon their homes if utilities refuse, as they sometimes do, to remove the smart meter.
Once a wireless smart meter system is in place, there exists a very real potential for the remote reprogramming of pulse patterns emitted by (either all or selected) smart meters by hackers, terrorists, or by any government in the future. This could be used to purposefully affect a population’s (or selected sub-populations’) mental and physical functioning. This would be analogous to what the Russians did to the US Embassy in Moscow, and the military knows exactly how to accomplish this. Smart meters are already inadvertently having this effect on susceptible persons at their usual low pulse duty cycle of 1% or less (see Survey report). Imagine how much greater the effect would be, and on how many more people, if the duty cycle was raised for example to 50% at the push of a button. A potential weapon of mass debilitation attached to every home. An extremely slippery slope.
Exposure to EMF such as that from smart meters and other sources, rapidly causes painful physical symptoms and disability in a significant percentage of the world’s population, whether or not these people can directly “sense” EMF and whether or not they are aware that they are being exposed. This is in spite of junk science sponsored by industry – poorly conducted experiments – that have supposedly “proven” that the symptoms are not caused by EMF exposure. More than any other electronic device, smart meters have been the cause of persons world-wide being converted from normal, to becoming electrically sensitive, to the point of not being able to use their beloved cell phones or wi-fi any longer (see Survey report). Take note: smart meters really are disabling people, and the number so disabled is growing rapidly. This is one of the main reasons that there are over 200 smart meter opposition groups world-wide. Many of these health effects are irreversible.
Electrical Sensitivity (ES) is very real, and it is direct evidence that non-thermal effects do cause serious health problems in humans. See References and Notes section for a definition and discussion of ES. Even in the general population that has not yet become electrically sensitive, it is very probable that smart meters are causing subliminal effects on sleep patterns, neuropsychological functioning, leakage of the blood-brain barrier, and increased oxidative damage including DNA breakage. No official testing has ever been done with smart meters to look for these effects.
8) OPT-OUTS NOT SUFFICIENT
Opt-outs are not a satisfactory solution because of cumulative microwave emissions from neighbor’s smart meters and nearby banks of smart meters.
Furthermore, utilities have been charging initial and on-going monthly extra fees to opt-out. The true purpose of these fees is to discourage opting out, not to compensate for manually reading an analogue meter as claimed. (Customers can do this themselves and submit the monthly reading to the utility via the post card system such as has been in effect for years on Oahu or via an automated touch-tone phone system.) Any demand of extra payment to avoid having privacy, security or health infringed upon within one’s own home is, without exaggeration, extortion, particularly in light of the fact that microwave radiation, including that emitted by smart meters, is classified by the WHO as a possible human carcinogen.
9) SAFETY AND BENEFITS PROPAGANDA
Utilities and PUCs have been believing, relying on and disseminating the smart meter “information” supplied to them by the manufacturers of smart meters and others. This propaganda is riddled with misleading and false statements, and uses FCC dogma as its basis for safety (see NOTES AND REFERENCES for reason 7). Unfortunately the truth is that the FCC, FDA, EPA and other government agencies have been passing the buck around in a circle from one to the next for many years, with none of them releasing their own research results. No one can honestly refute the red flags raised by the enormous body of peer-reviewed research, so agencies use deceptive double-talk and say that the research findings are not significant. They really do have serious safety concerns, but are influenced by pressure from the telecom industry.
Telecom lobbyists manipulate public opinion by making false proclamations through the press. Their chief lobbyist, “fixer” and generator of spin was Tom Wheeler, who is now the Chairman of the FCC – a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse – hence the public remains without protection from non-thermal effects. Business as usual in Washington, but in this case causing unnecessary death, disability and suffering, lack of optimum productivity, and increased health care costs.
Don’t take the path of intentional ignorance. Take a lesson from history: the “harmless” X-ray machines in every shoe store, DDT that “only affects insects”, malathion “drinkable”, asbestos “no effect on humans”, thalidomide “no significant side effects”, tobacco “doesn’t cause cancer”, estrogenic plasticizers “parts per billion can’t hurt anyone” – the list goes on and on. Please remember these huge blunders and make decisions accordingly.
Who should one believe, those with vested financial and political interests, or those whose priorities are the prevention of human suffering, maximizing cost benefits to consumers, and consumer security and privacy?
Do not rush ahead based on propaganda and wishful thinking. For the purpose of protecting the pocketbooks, privacy, security, health and safety of consumers, the deployment of smart meters and their associated systems should be halted until after they are redesigned and the new design is proven secure, safe and financially beneficial for the consumer. (Some possible safe alternatives to wireless smart meter systems are presented in the References and Notes section.) An unbiased study on the safety of smart meter systems as they are currently being deployed:
- would not hide behind the current FCC “safety” limits and would not be influenced by industry propaganda;
- would treat and evaluate the deployment of smart meters as an experiment on human beings that requires approval by an Institutional Review Board (such as an IRB at a major university) according to the NIH standards for experiments involving human subjects (one of the NIH requirements being prior full disclosure to and the signed consent of each subject);
- would test for subliminal effects in humans, including neuropsychological testing, and monitoring of sleep patterns and EEG (especially QEEG) and EKG before, during and after extensive exposure to actual typical smart meter emissions, first at normal duty cycle, and then at maximum duty cycle;
- would honestly take into account:
i) the thousands of research reports on non-thermal effects,
ii) the recent classification of microwave emissions including that from smart meters as a possible human carcinogen,
iii) the unusual symptoms and health effects from smart meters independently reported by thousands of persons world-wide,
iv) the warnings of the dozens of research scientists who have written about the dangers to human health of smart meters and other microwave emitting devices,
v) microwave exposure from neighbors’ smart meters and mesh system routers. (Smart meter emissions from the homes of immediate neighbors and also from dozens of surrounding houses all add together to contribute significantly to exposure inside one’s home, even when attenuation by walls and building materials is taken into account.)
- No real cost justification
- Invasion of privacy rights
- Susceptibility to hacking and cyber-terrorism
- Adverse biological effects
- Possible human carcinogen
- FCC and industry spin
- Mental and physical debilitation
- Opt-outs not sufficient
- Safety and benefits propaganda
Any of the above nine reasons should alone be cause enough to halt the deployment of smart meter systems of the present design. These systems were designed to satisfy perceived desires and needs of utilities, without anticipating that they would be an all-around bad idea for consumers and will end up being an on-going nightmare for the utilities themselves. With these systems: high costs, privacy invasion, hacking, and harm to humans are not going to go away, but will only get greater and greater. So will the liability consequences. A number of class action lawsuits are already underway.
There are ways to accomplish reasonable utility goals while avoiding negative impacts on consumers and the slippery slopes of intrusion into privacy and personal rights, and the extremely slippery slope of installing a potential weapon of mass debilitation on homes. The only alternatives that are safe and beneficial are wired alternatives that have no wireless features.
Don’t follow the mistakes of others down the wrong track, rather, reject the ill-conceived wireless systems currently being deployed elsewhere. Take a stand like Northeast Utilities did recently (see reason 1), and help set a precedent based on common sense.
To view or download the full document authored by Dr. Conrad which includes a REFERENCES AND NOTES section, click on the link below: