Smart Grid health concerns
The use of radio frequencies (RF) in consumer products such as cellular phones, baby monitors and wireless routers has increased considerably over the last decade and remains on the rise. Although advanced meters also utilize this technology to transmit data, they present significantly lower RF exposure for consumers than many other products that are used daily without concern (See Chart).
In fact, advanced meters far exceed Federal Communications Commission requirements. In addition, advanced meters do not transmit data constantly - they use RF signals less than 1 percent of the time, and the signals are strongest at the meter but diminish quickly with distance.
There is no evidence that the meters cause adverse health effects in humans or animals despite thousands of studies. Yet it’s fairly easy to find information on the Internet that portrays the meters as a health risk. We've found that the most objective information is available at the World Health Organization's website. The WHO has been studying the effects of exposure to RF and electromagnetic fields (EMF) since 1996, through The EMF Project. Even with all of the conflicting data, the WHO notes that most scientists and researchers worldwide concur that any health effects of low level RF and EMF, if they exist at all, are likely to be very small compared to other health risks that people routinely face.
The results of one of the more prominent studies, published on the WHO website in late December 2011, found no evidence that "exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in everyday life is associated with the development of non-specific health symptoms." That's just one of thousands of studies to explore the effects of RF on brain activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure, and none of the research suggests any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from RF at levels used in advanced meters or even cell phones, which emit RF signals 1,000 to 10,000 times stronger than advanced meters. In addition, research has been unable to support a causal relationship between exposure to RF signals and symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which include nausea, headaches and lethargy.
No link has been found between RF and cancer either, despite extensive study. According to the WHO, if RF signals were a strong carcinogen, there would be ample evidence by now. All of this doesn't necessarily mean RF has no effect on the human body, though; it could mean the effect is undetectable via the methods of study undertaken. This is what opens the door for misinformation - science cannot guarantee that RF signals are safe even though the research is reassuring overall.
A number of studies have analyzed the RF emissions of smart meters. Here’s a look at a few:
A 2011 report by Elster, the meter manufacturer, entitled "RF Safety and the EnergyAxis System".
Electric Power Research Institute’s December 2011 study, "An Investigation of Radiofrequency Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter", which examined RF emissions from a communications network similar to the one set up by IFP.
Electric Power Research Institute’s December 2010 study, Characterization of Radio Frequency Emissions From Two Models of Wireless Smart Meters, which looked at the duty cycles of wireless meters and their impact on RF exposure.
A Vermont Department of Public Service report, which found that RF emissions from smart meters fall well below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.
A Texas Public Utility Commission report, which found that a "large body of scientific research reveals no definite or proven biological effects from exposure to low-level RF signals."
The Oregon Health Authority’s Center for Public Health Protection found that “the implementation of smart meters will not adversely impact human health.”
Here is a link to a recent study conducted by the Arizona Department of Public Health. The study, Public Health Evaluation of Radio Frequency Exposure from Electronic Meters, concludes that there is no correlation between the RF emissions of smart meter devices and adverse health conditions in humans.
Dozens of other studies have examined the potential health effects of electromagnetic energy used by smart meters, cell phones, baby monitors and other common devices. Here are links to a few of them:
American Cancer Society’s report, “Radiation Exposure and Cancer”, found that non-ionizing radiation, aside from UV rays, is not known to increase cancer risks.
A researcher with the Environmental Defense Fund examines the issue.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health issued a 41-page report in 2012 that found no link between low-level RF fields such as those created by smart meters and illness in humans and animals.