Do Smart Meters Cause Health Problems? What You Should Know
Update: Since this blog post was published, Western Power has announced that smart meters will now be rolled out permanently in WA, read more about that update here.
Before stepping through a client’s front door to do a healthy home review, most can’t tell me if they have a smart meter or not. It could have been installed before they moved in or it was sold to them as something innocuous or even beneficial on the basis that electricity bills will be cheaper. There are no questions asked, especially not the most important one: do smart meters cause health problems?
These same clients may then find themselves visiting the doctor complaining of sleep problems, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, or a child’s ADHD. Of course, the cause of the problem is never found because doctors will never ask the right question.
If you’ve been in this situation yourself, let me ask now, did your symptoms appear soon after the smart meter was installed or after you moved into your home?
Your power company certainly won’t have informed you that smart meters come with a health risk, no more than your telecommunications rep will tell you that your wireless router generates electromagnetic fields; a possible carcinogen. Read on and I will explain how the two are very closely related. Health risks are very much part and parcel of their installation.
The smart meter rollout – what you must know
Smart meters emit electromagnetic fields (EMF) of varying sorts. They are being rolled out by utility companies across the world, including much of Australia, replacing electric, gas and water analogue manually-read meters with pulsed radiation smart meters.
In 2009, Victoria became the first state in Australia to introduce smart meters. With the exception of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, in Australia, all new and replacement meters will be smart.
About 50,000 smart meters are currently being trialled in Western Australia. Around Perth, this includes Darlington, Midland, Bassendean and Forrestfield as well as parts of the Kimberley and the Pilbara.
What are smart meters?
A smart meter produces microwave non-ionising radiation that penetrates your home. This smart system uses radio frequencies in the microwave range of 915 to 928 MHz and 2.43 GHz, which is a similar frequency to that of a mobile phone.
Each meter forms part of a broader ‘Smart Grid’. The location of your home within the network will determine how much radiation your meter transmits. Some household meters will be designated relay stations (every 3km) which may mean much higher rates of data transmission.
The smart meter communicates with the power company and also sends signals to other smart meters in the vicinity and nearby mobile phone towers.
The plan is that smart chips are installed on all new appliances in the home, your fridge, cooker and television (if not already) so that information can be relayed to you and the power company on your personal habits and usage. If you run out of milk, your fridge will message you. Seriously!
How do smart meters cause health problems?
Despite information to the contrary, smart meters are sending data almost continuously (similar to an SMS every 15-20 seconds in some cases) and not just at certain times during the day which is probably what you were told.
In the USA, the utility company PG&E conceded that electric meters send an average of 10,000 pulses per meter per day and a maximum of 190,000 per day. Radio frequency microwave radiation is penetrating your entire home and body as the data is transmitted from meter to meter.
Health impacts aside for the moment, smart meters may also present a potential fire hazard. They can generate dirty electricity on your electrical wiring, increase your power costs, and pose a security and privacy issue whereby the system can easily be hacked and information sold onto interested third parties.
It has also been claimed that smart meters are responsible for a zero reduction in power usage. They simply switch the power from one time of day to another, the amount of power used remains the same and hence any cost saving is negligible, if at all.
What are the health impacts?
Smart meters use technology similar to mobile phones and hence the health impacts are therefore similar.
Health problems frequently develop subsequent to a smart meter being installed in a home, especially when the meter is located externally on a bedroom wall.
Symptoms can include insomnia and tinnitus, stress, agitation, irritability, difficulty concentrating, heart problems, fatigue, headaches, weakness, visual problems, nausea, flu-like symptoms, skin rashes, high blood pressure, changes in the menstrual cycle, and changes in children’s behaviour.
Utility companies argue that because the radiation being emitted is non-ionising it is safe. However, numerous studies link adverse biological effects to non-ionising radiation such as that used by smart meters.
Vulnerable groups include people with EMF sensitivities, medical implants, compromised immune systems, children, pregnant women and the elderly. If you have a pacemaker the utility company (PG&E) warns you to stay 6 inches away from a smart meter.
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If the high-frequency microwave radiation is not the cause of your health problem, then dirty electricity may well be. This is generated because smart meters typically use a switched-mode power supply to improve energy efficiency. However, in doing so it creates pollution on house wiring known as dirty electricity. Some smart meters, instead of using radio-frequency to wirelessly transmit data back to base, actually use powerline networking or broadband over power lines, which also creates dirty electricity.
Many links have been established between dirty electricity and ill-health effects including cancer, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, ADD, autism and a number of neurological disorders.
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