by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions, Originally Published August 2014, Last Updated October 2018
There are growing concerns that radiofrequency (RF) emissions from wireless utility “smart” meters cause serious adverse health impacts. Unfortunately, no human health impact studies were conducted prior to the deployment of RF emitting smart grid technologies, which include the smart meters themselves as well as the associated gatekeepers and routers that are part of the overall mesh communications network for each utility’s smart grid system.
In the absence of health impact studies conducted prior to smart meter deployment by utility companies, equipment manufacturers, or health agencies, there have been myriads of anecdotal reports of adverse effects caused by smart meter emissions. In addition, there have been at least limited studies (as listed below) subsequent to smart meter deployments indicating ill-effects:
- “Symptoms Resulting from Exposure to Radiofrequency/Microwave Radiation from Smart Meters,” an article written by Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D. summarizing the results of a health effects survey conducted by Richard H. Conrad, Ph.D.;
- “Wireless Utility Meter Safety Impacts Survey,” by Ed Halteman, Ph.D., dated September 13, 2011;
- “Self-Reporting of Symptom Development from Exposure to Wireless Smart Meters’ Radiofrequency Fields in Victoria,” a case series by Dr. Federica Lamech, MBBS, and described by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) in a document called, “Wireless Smart Meter Case Studies.” [Update: In November 2014, the Lamech case series was published in a peer-reviewed journal. Refer to the following link for more details: “Published Article: Symptom Development from Exposure to Wireless Smart Meters.”]
- For a good summary document reviewing the last two studies listed above, refer to the following link for a paper prepared by Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D.: Symptoms after Exposure to Smart Meter Radiation.
Peer-reviewed studies as outlined in the BioInitiative Report 2012 support an assertion that adverse biological effects should be expected based upon the RF radiation levels produced from wireless smart meters. For information on published studies showing biological effects from RF exposure from various emission sources, one can review summary information charts contained within The BioInitiative Report 2012, and specifically, relevant charts available at the following link: BioInitiative Report Color Charts for Reported Biological Effects.
Additional support for the claim that adverse effects can be expected from wireless emissions from smart meters can be found in a paper prepared by Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D. at the following link:
To more effectively communicate with the public on this topic, a chart has been prepared (as shown below) to compare:
- Possible levels of radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted from wireless smart meters;
- Bioeffects and adverse health impacts that have been measured “at very low levels” based upon published studies from various emission sources; and
- Various governmental RF exposure guidelines that do not fully protect public health. In particular, the guidelines for the USA and Canada were only established to protect tissues from significant overheating and electric shock.
Chart Colors updated October 14, 2018; One objective of the above chart is to provide representative data points as to how low (in terms of power density RF levels) bioeffects and adverse health impacts have been measured based upon published studies. A second objective of the chart is then to show that health impacts can be expected at RF levels well below those emitted by smart meters and established exposure guidelines of selected countries. Some visitors to this webpage, without understanding the above context, have interpreted the published study results (now represented in yellow on the chart instead of red) as simply typical power density levels of cell phones/towers, WiFi, and cordless phones rather than the levels that published studies have shown adverse effects. It is hoped that new color coding of chart values will help eliminate confusion and better communicate that some values on the chart have a different context than others.
The above chart was developed in cooperation with Stop Smart Meters!
The vertical axis of the above chart represents an RF power density for each displayed parameter. The units of measure selected for the vertical axis are milliwatts per square meter (mW/m2). The selected units for the vertical axis work well for relating the RF power density shown to the total RF power that an adult human might receive. The surface area of an adult (male) human is about 2 square meters (m2). So the surface area that an adult human presents to an RF wave arriving from the front, or from the back, is about 1 square meter (m2). One (1) milliwatt (mW) is one-thousandth of a watt.
Thus, when an adult human faces an oncoming wave of radiation with a power density of, say, 10 milliwatts per square meter (mW/m2), that human will receive a total of 10 milliwatts (mW) of radiation over the entire body. That is, the number describing the power density will be the same as the number describing the total power received, even though the units of measure are different in the two cases.
Descriptive terms used on the above chart are somewhat simplified for purposes of conveying information to the reader in an easy way and getting everything to fit on one chart. More complete reference information is provided below.
Somewhat expanded basis information for the above chart values is provided in the linked PDF document shown below.
Power density is likely just one parameter which may be used as a measure for predicting adverse health effects due to exposure to RF emissions. Published studies have shown that other characteristics such as the intermittence and modulation of the RF signal, as well as the overall duration of exposure (i.e., short-term vs. chronic) also play a role.
Additional Technical Perspective on Wireless “Smart” Meter Radiation Levels
(for those interested in more technical details)
As mentioned above, the smart meter radiation level delineated in the chart is a value calculated based upon a modeled scenario described in EPRI Document # 1022270, “Radio-Frequency Exposure Levels from Smart Meters: A Case Study of One Model,” February 2011. The value of 40 µwatts/cm2 (or 400 mW/m2) at three (3) feet in front of the smart meter should be valid for the model of smart meter analyzed in the EPRI document. Technically speaking, the 400 mW/m2 represents the RF power density value during signal transmission where wireless smart meters generally transmit that signal intermittently over time.
It is not expected that the 400 mW/m2 RF radiation level would represent the typical exposure level for residents in homes where smart meters are normally mounted external to the home or when people spend most of their time at distances greater than three (3) feet from their smart meter.
Based upon a technical review of available reference documentation and test results, SkyVision Solutions would generally state that a typical maximum indoor RF level associated with wireless smart meters would be about 10 mW/m2. The point of this explanation is that, based upon information presented below, it should not be considered uncommon to find RF measured values in homes in the range of 1 to 10 mW/m2 or slightly greater than that range. In fact, if you are in a room of a home with a smart meter on the other side of one of the room walls, the likelihood can be quite high that exposure levels will be within the range of 1 to 10 mW/m2. These values are still well in excess of levels found in published studies showing bioeffects and adverse health impacts for various RF emission sources.
In some situations where a smart meter is not installed on the outside of a home or business but rather on an inside wall, then indoor RF levels may certainly exceed the “typical” maximum value mentioned above. In those instances, the expected RF levels would more closely compare to the value shown in the above “Smart” Meter Wireless Radiation Comparison chart.
Reference material presented below forms the basis for the perspective that the typical maximum indoor RF level associated with wireless smart meters would be about 10 mW/m2:
Review of Another EPRI Study
- A review was conducted of EPRI Report # 1021829, December 2011, “Characterization of Radio Frequency Emissions from Two Models of Wireless Smart Meters.” This report provides industry accepted values for two specific models of smart meters each containing a nominal 1 watt RF transmitter.
- Overall, ninety (90) to ninety-five (95) % of RF fields inside a home will be less than 10 mW/m2, based upon measurements for six California residences. [This means that 5 to 10% of RF field measurements inside a home may be equal to or somewhat above this level.]
- Refer to link at: http://www.epri.com/abstracts/Pages/ProductAbstract.aspx?ProductId=000000000001021829.
RF Exposure Numbers from Smart Grid Advocates
- Page 13 of a joint presentation by smart grid advocates before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) on September 20, 2012, states: “Typical indoor peak exposure < 1 uW/cm2” (or 10 mW/m2)
- Refer to page 13 at link: https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/fl-psc-joint-iou-presentation-on-smart-meters.pdf.
Review of a Richard Tell Study
- In situations where the nominal RF transmitter output is in the range of 200 to 300 milliwatts as is the case in the Richard Tell study within the state of Vermont, then typical RF indoor maximum RF levels would appear to be well less than 10 mW/m2. In the 2013 report published by Richard Tell Associates, there were 141 indoor residential measurements where the peak indoor measurement was approximately 5.0 mW/m2. Based upon information on page 45 of the Tell report, approximately 10% of the indoor measurements were greater than 0.6 mW/m2 (but yet less than or equal to 5.0 mW/m2).
- Reference: Page 45 at: https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/vermont-dps-smart-meter-measurement-report-final.pdf.
Indoor Smart Meter Measurements by Dr. Karl Maret
Dr. Karl Maret performed smart meter-related measurements early in 2014 where he found RF radiation power density measurements with frequent pulses in the range between 2 to 4 mW/m2. These measurements were performed inside a building where five (5) smart meters were located outside the building. Refer to the figure below which is a slide selected from the following file: Maret.Presentation.January 2014.
Modeled Exposure Levels for an Actual Home
- Note that in an actual home, where a smart meter faced toward a bedroom wall, calculated exposure levels in the bedroom were expected to be 5 mW/m2 at a distance of two (2) meters from a smart meter as discussed in a blog article at https://smartgridawareness.org/2013/09/20/smart-meter-home/. (Refer to home layout picture below.) A family member of the home’s occupant reported measured levels consistent with the values calculated by SkyVision Solutions although these values were not presented in the article because the peak measured levels were not formally documented.
Commonwealth Edison Indoor Smart Meter Measurement
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) performed an indoor smart meter measurement as part of a YouTube video discussing RF concerns. This measurement was taken inside a utility customer’s kitchen and was indicated to be 910 µwatts/m2 or about 1 mW/m2. This measurement was said to have been verified by an independent third party. The video further stated that “placing a baby monitor about two feet from a transmitting baby monitor exposes the child to roughly the same RF emissions that one would receive in KC’s kitchen.” For further information regarding this video, refer to the link at: https://smartgridawareness.org/2014/01/22/comed-compares-smart-meters-to-baby-monitors/.
RF Characterization of a Landis & Gyr Smart Meter
In 2014, EPRI published an RF characterization of a Landis & Gyr smart meter, one of three different models used by CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas. This smart meter had a power output of 1 watt. What was unique about the characterization was that power density values were plotted to create a “color map” providing a qualitative representation of actual measured data and in a manner that provides a three-dimensional perspective. Refer to the figure below. The figure indicates that RF levels are in the neighborhood of 45 mW/m2 at 1 meter in front of the smart meter. As you get to about 10 feet in front of the meter, the RF levels drop to about 10 mW/m2. You can see that the RF levels are not as intense to the sides and back side of the smart meter but still are in the neighborhood of 5 to 10 mW/m2 at about 1 meter behind the smart meter. Measurable RF levels would extend beyond the blue fringe area of the “color map,” but additional measurements were not plotted as part of this meter RF characterization.
Referenced EPRI Report: “Characterization of Radio Emissions from Advanced Metering Infrastructure Revenue Meters (Smart Meters) in CPS Energy Residential Installations,” Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), 2014 Technical Report. Please note that Figure C-2 of the EPRI report was used to better approximate mW/m2 values referenced above. SkyVision Solutions also converted ICNIRP reference levels as used in the report directly to power density values. The full EPRI report is available for review at
This webpage was updated on October 15, 2018.